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Aging Airstreamers Watch ‘New Wave’ Take Hold

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August 12, 2013 by   Leave a Comment

Carol Orvitz would be the first to admit that the national passion for Airstream travel trailers is not what it once was. Back in Airstream’s heyday, during the 1970s and ’80s, Airstream trailer owners from around the country would pack the exclusive Hawks Prairie trailer park in Washington State each summer, turning it into a sea of silver.

According to a report in The Olympian, the annual Washington rally would draw hundreds of the distinctive rounded aluminum trailers, and every one of the 192 residential lots in the Land Yacht Harbor subdivision, which requires an Airstream for ownership, was spoken for.

This year’s weeklong Airstream rally, which ended Sunday, was just a faint echo of that boom.

The club’s traditional salmon dinner Saturday night drew 160 Airstreamers – although, most were permanent Yacht Harbor residents. Fewer than two dozen visitors pulled their rigs in from outside the area.

“Age has taken hold,” said Orvitz, 72, one of the organizers of the rally and a past president of the international club’s Washington unit. “We have a lot of people, really, who came to the end of their lives or are ready to go into assisted living.”

But Orvitz has what she calls her “wave theory.”

Most of the first wave of Airstreamers, who bought their trailers in the 1950s and ’60s, Orvitz says, have gone on down the road. “They’re gone now,” she said.

Their children, who cherished their adventures in Airstreams as kids, inherited the trailers and formed the second wave, she said. Most of them are now, like her, in their 70s.

Now, Orvitz says, there’s a third wave, propagated by young, wealthy professionals who are taken with nostalgia for the classic rigs and are lovingly refurbishing them. They caught the disease Airstream owners laughingly call “aluminum fever” or “aluminitis.”

“We think we bottomed out and we’re starting up again,” she said.

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