SierraNevadaAirstreams.orgWBCCI History

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The Early Days of WBCCI

Dale (Pee Wee) Schwamborn

Note: Dale has been intimately involved with WBCCI since its inception. He was also an employee of the Airstream Corporation from 1964 to 1969. Information in this description comes from Pee Wee, his personal collections of records and materials from Helen and Wally, and from the book Trailer Travel Here and Abroad.

How the Wally Byam Caravan Club Came to be.


Wally wanted the two entities separate…Airstream and the Club. Yet linked. Wally Byam = Airstream; Airstream = Wally Byam. One a manufacturing entity and the other a social-membership Club of product owners. - Pee Wee

The Wally Byam Caravan Club, International (WBCCI) has a somewhat unique history in the annals of RV associations. It is intertwined with the history of the Airstream trailer. Aistream was the brainchild of Wally Byam and Wally Byam was the inspiration for WBCCI, the club bearing his name. The two entities, although symbiotic in many ways are and always were, in the mind of Wally Byam, two separate and independent components of the same dream. That dream was Wally's idea of creating a unique travel trailer that was fully self contained and could go anywhere. He promoted that dream by actually doing what the Airstream was meant to do – traveling the country and the world, setting an example and leading the way.

The idea develops

In a postcard written by Wally and sent to Helen in 1953, Wally is telling my Mother that he will take care of her "itchy foot." - Pee Wee

In Wally's book Trailer Travel Here and Abroad, Wally talks about how the idea of caravans developed. Essentially it was a purchaser of one of Wally's Airstream trailers that asked Wally to take him on a trip to help familiarize him with his new trailer through actual travel experience. From that point the caravans grew and with it the idea began to percolate that organizing a club might be a good idea. With more caravans, and more Airstream owners, the clamoring for a club became stronger..

The foundations are laid

What is known is that the Airstream owners wanted a Club. Wally made it possible for them to have a Club. The desire to have a club was probably antecedent to the 1955 Eastern Canadian Caravan. I don’t have evidence of where the Club “idea” was started, but it probably came out of the 500 trailer Caravan 1954 to 1955 to Mexico. Why? The Caravans were still open to non-Airstream owners. The Airstream owners not only wanted exclusivity on Caravans, but believed a Club could perpetuate the fun. National Club, regional, and local branches. - Pee Wee
Wally had no one to take over the mechanics and the administrative demands for a Club. This is one several reasons he asked my Mother to go on the 1955 Eastern Canadian Caravan. The trip confirmed Wally’s trust in my Mother, he saw her work with his “children”, the Airstream owners, saw her communicative abilities, organization abilities, and the take charge requirements to run a club. He hired my Mother to organize it and run it (the club). Wally was looking forward to having my Mother join the program. It reiterates the years of association the two of them had. The respect that Wally had for my Mother. At the same time she was given the Caravan responsibilities. - Pee Wee
I believe that many of the Caravanners, all Airstream owners, felt this was the time (1955) to organize the Club. Wally now could do it without hesitation with my Mother on board. They brought the idea up to Wally. I believe this was ongoing for several months or years. (The Jack Rabbits, I believe, were the driving force.) - Pee Wee

The Wally Byam Caravan Club is established

Since he had to go to Europe he left it in Helen's hands to work with these people to form the club. I have my Mother’s calendar or diary from 1955. It has many pertinent dates and comments. Many of the notations are just that, notations. Having some of Wally’s notation books, I believe he probably suggested this to my Mother. I know that my Mother had daily notations all of her life until she became critically ill in 2004. - Pee Wee

I will give you a few dates.

May 15, 1955 - Plans for Canadian Caravan
May 16, 1955 - Request Leave from Office
May 21, 1955 - Call from Wallace = all set
June 09, 1955 - W. called – leave L A 14th
June 10, 1955 - Last day of work!
June 14, 1955 - L.A. – dinner “Thistle Inn”, nite Lelah
June 15, 1955 - Left L.A. 3:30 P.M.
June 20, 1955 - Arrived Jackson Center (I have chosen to leave out more detail from June 15th to June 20th. - Pee Wee)
June 25, 1955 - Crossed ferry to Soo Arrived Camp at 11:45 about 20 trailers here
June 28, 1955 (Sault St. Marie) - First interview for Press
July 04, 1955 (Algonquin Park) - Breakfast with Stel & W., B.D. Dinner – Spaghetti Feed
July 10, 1955 (Montreal) - Worked all day with Wally
July 11, 1955 (Montreal) - Farewell dinner Stel & Wally, Long talk with W. evening, Mtg. Of advisory board - Hamp Millender, Oscar Selent, Fred Beltner, Mark Smith, Pop Riley, John McNamara. (The advisory board was made up of those Caravanners best suited to assist my Mother on any issues, or problems that might occur. These were life long friends from this point on. And they were trusted by Wally and he knew many of them for years. - Pee Wee)
July 15, 1955 (Quebec) - Tele from W & S from Dusseldorf
July 20, 1955 (Campbleton, N.B.) - There is this reference. Conf – Mr. Frasher re By-Laws
July 21, 1955 (Moncton, N.B.) - 30 min. on Radio – Broadcast at 8 everybody said was good
July 24, 1955 (Halifax) - Rootin Tootin mtg at nite Oscar presided, Mtg of Constitution Com. Beatty’s trailer
July 25, 1955 (Halifax) - People all afternoon, Mt. With By-Laws Com. Pop’s Trailer, Even Mac – Oscar – Alice, Worked until 1:30 A.M.
July 29, 1955 (Yarmouth, N.S.) - Usual newspaper – mayor – tour rep and television etc.
July 31, 1955 (Yarmouth, N.S.) - Don is a pain – decided to go on w/out him, Wired and called Andy, Don was the advance scout. He was not reliable. Later on my Mother fired him and was concerned that Wally might be upset. Which he wasn’t. And told my Mother that it was the right thing to do. (You can see the strength of my Mother growing from these few details. - Pee Wee)
August 01, 1955 (Kentville) - Kentville, NS. Palmeters lovely summer home, largest bone china est. in Canada
August 03, 1955 (Kentville) - Mtg at 9: Caravan Club, Mtg w/Board, Mtg w/By-laws Com, Mtg w/Palmeters re party tonite, Gift of plate
August 08, 1955 (New Glasgow, N.S.) - Interview – newspaper etc., Birthday Dinner and gifts
August 14, 1955 (St. John, N.B.), Mom & Pop Riley’s 50th Anniversary
August 15, 1955 (Bangor, Maine) - Dinner & Farewell
August 23, 1955 (Jackson Center) - Arrived J.C. 1:15 A.M.
August 26, 1955 (Benton Harbor, Michigan) - Picked up new “wagon” drove to South Bend for license
August 29, 1955 - Worked all day in office, Lunch w/Andy – J. C., Dinner w/Andy – Lima, Plan. For trailer
September 3, 1955 - From Holbrook, Ariz to Bksfld 642 mi., Hot – 115 officially, Lunch in Needles, Home at 7:30
September 6, 1955 - Back to Work
September 9, 1955 - L.A.- worked w/Marianne
October 06, 1955 - Wally & Stel Home
October 07, 1955 (Friday) - Wally called, L.A. Sun – Tues. (Notation: on December 31, 1955 Airstream Sales, Inc. 7/1/55)

My Mother began her association with Airstream on June 15, 1955. She worked for Airstream from that date until her retirement at 75 on August 8, 1979. It appears that her job began on the day she left LA for the East. It also shows that before Wally and Stel left for Europe that she was a permanent employee and that Caravan and Club matters were hers. Her group worked under the Airstream Group called Airstream Sales, Inc., apparently formed on July 1, 1955. The primary purpose of this entity was financial, to provide a means to manage salaries and other monetary needs of the fledgling club. Helen was on the Airstream Sales payroll during that period. She was the Director (of WBCCI) and in charge from the get go. - Pee Wee

Among Helen's many duties, she formed the work force (hiring and if necessary, firing staff) as required. She made arrangement for all the Caravans and for the first WBCCI International Rally. She created and published the membership directory, the newsletter and many other documents. Helen also served on both the Airstream and WBCCI boards of directors. The first headquarters for WBCCI were in Helen's (and Pee Wee's) home.

Wally made the determination for the location of the Club and Caravan Headquarters. This was in respect to our home being in Bakersfield. Also there was no reason to have the office at either of the factory locations. She (Helen) started the office with a typewriter, a notebook, and a 3 x5 file box with lined cards. As it grew people, office furniture, office equipment, were added as needed to serve all aspects of the requirements of the “Headquarters,” first at 2204 Lindora, then 822 Niles, the Schwamborn's homes. Then the headquarters moved to the Airstream plant in Cerritos and now Jackson Center. From a few to many, from nothing to something. From 1955 to 2006! - Pee Wee
The Club early on was incorporated in the late 50’s or early 60’s. This alone separated the Club and Airstream. (I have a seal of incorporation somewhere.) As mentioned once before, Wally wanted the two entities separate…Airstream and the Club. Yet linked. Wally Byam = Airstream; Airstream = Wally Byam. One a manufacturing entity and the other a social-membership Club of product owners. - Pee Wee

See an article Helen wrote in 1979 regarding the history of WBCCI.

Airstream Inc.

I have to believe that Art Costello was the first President of Airstream. Art worked his way up from the stock room to President. When Jackson Center was opened Andy Charles was sent from California to be the President of the new Plant. In both cases Wally made these choices. I have found that when you have two Presidents with a Corporation, they are typically empowered General Managers. For dealings on a day to day basis they have title of President to deal with matters of business. I’m not saying this true in this case, but Wally was still the boss. - Pee Wee
There is today, as in the past, and I believe always will be a symbiotic relationship between the Club and Airstream. They need each other. Today Airstream makes more sales from product than having a way of life division. The Club does depend on Airstream sales and resale's of Airstreams to maintain membership. Don't get this point wrong, I believe Airstream still needs the Club, but not is the same way as it did 30 years ago, 50 years ago. I say this because the generation 50 years ago was tied into friendships, association they had shared the WWI, WWII, and the Depression. So there were common bonds, that aren't as strong as today. - Pee Wee


Here is Wally giving the Club the use of his name. Wally never wanted to mix apples and oranges. His name was interchangeable with Airstream and Airstream with Wally Byam. He wanted to make sure that even though Airstream financed the Club, that it was totally independent of Airstream and was completely an Airstreamers Club.

Here are two pages that give the right to the Club for the use of "Wally Byam". It does not give the Club any legal right at the time to use Airstream. Though today Airstream legally has the right to license the word "Airstream."  This is as it should be to contain the rampant use and financial gains by others and to retain the icon it good and proper taste. - Pee Wee May 2017

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The manufacture of Airstream products and the club created by owners of those products has had a close and beneficial relationship since the inception of the club. At the same time these two entities have maintained their separate identity, each with it's own board of directors and governing policies. During his lifetime, Wally was the ultimate decision maker for both Airstream manufacturing and the club. Wally in turn, through his respect of Helen and her capabilities and his trust in her abilities, enabled her to guide the day to day operations and directions of the new club. She made decisions and managed club affairs with guidance from Wally and the club board but independent of any influence from the Airstream manufacturing entity. Until her retirement in 1979, Helen was the primary decision maker for WBCCI. It is to her that the club owes it's solid foundation and premier place in the world of RV associations. It is Helen's efforts that helped make WBCCI known around the world.

The documents provided and the pictures in these photo galleries have been used with permission of Dale Schwamborn. They are intended for personal viewing and enjoyment only and are not to be used in part or in full on other websites, for commercial purpose, or for any other use. For information on this material you can contact Dale at

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