Oregon Unit WBCCI Airstream Club in 1859 Magazine by Rhonda Coleman Early this spring I reached out to 1859 (the magazine named for the year Oregon became a state) and pitched the WBCCI Oregon Unit as the subject for an article. “In an intelligent and beautiful format, 1859 explores the landscapes, the personalities, the movers and shakers, the history and the architecture that is the jewel of the Pacific Northwest,” states their website. We were thrilled (I think, mostly) to learn that the Oregon Wally Club would be featured in the July/August 2013 issue. For those of you who ended up on the cutting room floor, following is the complete story. (As a fellow 16-footer, I can relate to one of Bambi-owner Boomer’s priceless quotes: “The closet has room for ten Hawaiian shirts and a sweatshirt.”)
Airstream Style....... “When you knock on someone’s Airstream door and say ‘Hey, can I look inside your trailer?’, people not only open their door and say ‘Sure, come on in,’ they say ‘We’re cooking breakfast, how do you like your eggs?’” That’s Brad Taylor, Airstream owner and one of a group of friends - Oregonians of all ages and backgrounds - who might never have met without their common love of aluminum. Specifically, their aluminum Airstream trailers. “Trailer people just are friendly,” Taylor said. “Welcoming and inviting. Particularly in the Airstream club.” The friends are all members of the “Oregon Wally Club”, the Oregon Unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), the official association for “owners of the world’s finest RV” and named for Wally Byam, inventor of the Airstream, who introduced glamour to trailer travel nearly sixty years ago. Members gallivant about the state, playing hard and glamping in their gleaming rolling homes, and attend theme weekend club rallies surrounding seafood, sandcastles and kayaking at the Coast, dark sky stargazing in Summer Lake, watching old movies at the defunct drive-in theater in Sutherlin, and celebrating the fall colors (and Oregon wines) near Champoeg State Park. The annual Let ‘er Buck Rally at the Pendleton Roundup is an Oregon Unit tradition that has attracted Airstreamers across the country and Canada for nearly fifty years. In April, photographer Dave Bassett spent a sunny afternoon with the Oregon Unit and their silver ‘streams at a rally in Harrisburg, where he discovered that the trailers cared for by club members are as varied as their owners.
The Oregon Airstreams range from squeeworthy, award winning vintage trailers to sleek high tech models fresh from the dealerships. All are welcome and the camaraderie is contagious. “When new members come to an event, they soak up stories and knowledge from the others; super-secret tricks on how to fix this or protect that,” said club president Mona Heath, an Airstream serial-owner. She and her husband Doug own five - count ‘em - five Airstreams. The flagship of their fleet, rescued several years ago from the Vernonia flood, is a 25-foot 1969 Tradewind that recently bagged the People’s Choice award at Modernism Week in Palm Springs after an extensive two-plus year remodel. The Mid Century Modern decor - an extension of the Heath’s home aesthetic - includes a kidney shaped couch and long countertop bar for meals and enter-
taining. “We’ve had eight, ten people in there,” said Heath. “It works.” Outside, the Heath trailer proudly wears her “Big Red Numbers”, the designation affixed to the front and rear shells of the Airstreams owned by more than 12,000 members of the WBCCI. A practice adopted by Wally Byam himself during the early Airstream caravans of the 1950s, WBCCI members continue to use the numbers - cross referenced in the annual directory - to identify one another. “I’ve never belonged to a club in my life,” said Heath, “but belonging to the WBCCI and having the big red numbers are synonymous to me with the heritage of the Airstream. I think you need to continue to show that.” So, why an Airstream? “I always thought they were hip,” explained one member. “My husband said, ‘I only want an Airstream, it can’t be anything but continued on page 18 Blue Beret / October 2013