Good Day New York hosts Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly talked live with David Woodworth about RVing on Monday (April 19) on MYFOX New York.
The show’s hosts were impressed with the Fleetwood Discovery motorhome, with Kelly saying, “this is for a rock band!” Woodworth added, “I’d put this up against most flats in New York.”
The segment concluded with a montage of photographs of antique RVs from taken inside the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
Click here to watch the broadcast.
The writings of Wally Byam, founder of Airstream and legendary RV traveler who died in 1962, are being revived in this, the centennial year of the RV industry.
Rich Luhr, publisher of Airstream Life, has combined the popular works of Byam, “Fifth Avenue on Wheels” and “Trailer Travel Here and Abroad” in a single reprint titled “The Byam Books.”
The book can be obtained only through the Airstream Life online store at present: www.airstreamlife.com/store.
Dale “Pee Wee” Schwamborn, Byam’s cousin and frequent traveling companion, was invited to write the forward to the reprinted work.
Schwamborn, now 71 and living in Dewey, Ariz., told RV Business.com, “For too many years the writings of Wally Byam have been out of print. Wally conducted worldwide Caravans for Airstream owners. (Canada, Mexico, Central America, Cuba and Africa.) Airstream has become a legend, an icon, and the most recognized RV/trailer on the highways and byways of the world.”
His forward to the reprinted book follows (the photographs are from various archival collections of Byam memorabilia):
“To Pee Wee, who accompanied me on my First and Last Caravan. Wally Byam”
Wally wrote this in my first edition of “Trailer Travel Here and Abroad.”
In 1951, Wally gave me the nickname, “Pee Wee.” He also invited me to travel with him on his first Caravan to Mexico and Central America. Wally’s last Caravan was to Africa in 1959. The trek went from Cape Town, South Africa, to Alexandria, Egypt. I assisted Wally as the Advance Scout on this final Caravan. My nickname has endured since 1951, and is my personal synonym for Airstream, the Wally Byam Caravan Club, and having fun.
Wally Byam surrounded himself with affirmations. He did not just talk the talk, he truly walked the walk. When he was 21 years old (in 1917), he wrote this defining, prophetic statement:
“I am a man of extremes — either I will be a big boss, a rousing success, or a blank failure. In my heart I know I’ll be a great big glorious success, and that my name will go down in history.”
Wally Byam understood his personal power to achieve. He found his niche in the manufacturing of the Airstream trailer, the development of Caravans traveling the highways and byways of the world, and his 100% support of the Airstream owner’s club, the Wally Byam Caravan Club.
“Remember — if you want a thing bad enough you’ll get it, if you work hard enough.”
Wally’s path through his life was never easy. He did advertising work with his friend Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. and the Los Angeles Times. When the radio was in its heyday, he published a trade publication glorifying the radio, and its manufacturers.
When our nation was in the Great Depression, Wally did the unimaginable: he formed a recreational vehicle company to manufacture travel trailers. Our Airstream trailers began in dire times. But Wally was a true Renaissance man, equal to the challenge. He was an entrepreneur, engineer, production line worker, salesman, lecturer, owner, supervisor, accountant, purchasing agent, friend, dancing partner, sailor, teacher, conservationist, historian, leader and husband.
No one ever worked harder to serve his employees, owners, and friends.
“I just hate the idea of being a business man or running a big mill or anything like that. I do not know whether to make myself like that kind of life or become a beachcomber, as in the play. One way gives me success, renown and prestige, and the other gives me happiness. Which shall I choose?”
Wally Byam became a manufacturing beachcomber. He made a product from his love for travel and camping. It allowed him to go when and where he wanted by giving him the freedom of a beachcomber. He willed this spirit to his Airstream owners. He did it through firsthand experience with many Wally Byam Caravans, and with the publications of “Fifth Avenue on Wheels” and “Trailer Travel Here and Abroad.”
At age 23, Wally wrote, “There is no use of me trying to be a world-beater for the simple reason that I don’t want to be a world-beater. Success is so futile, one strives for mountains and mountains of money and power, which, when attained makes the possessor no happier than before he began, except from the pleasure of doing his work. I do not get pleasure out of purely making money. So what’s the use of trying.”
Wally was never after a bank account. He wanted several things from his endeavors: financial freedom, the best product that could be made, good friends, steady employment for his workers, to be a good husband and, at the end of the day, to know that his work had contributed to these endeavors. Money was only a tool to accomplish his goals, not to create an empire.
Wally Byam had a knack of picking leaders for Airstream. In California, he selected Arthur (Art) Costello to first manage and then become Airstream’s President on the west coast. A good friend from his workdays at Lockheed during the Second World War, was Andrew (Andy) Charles. In 1952, Wally gave Andy the opportunity to go to Jackson Center, Ohio to start up a new Airstream Plant. Wally’s choices made Airstream the company we know today. Andy and Art were sterling leaders, not only for Airstream, but for the entire industry.
In 1955 Wally again had to make a decision. He and Stel (his wife) were going to Europe to scout the 1956 Wally Byam Caravan to Europe. Who could he tap to take over the Caravan to Eastern Canada? He selected his first cousin, Helen Byam Schwamborn, who was my mother. In 1953, Wally had sent Helen a post card. He told her that he would be taking care of her “itchy foot.”
Well, he did. Not only was she selected to lead the 1955 Eastern Canada Caravan, she was asked to work with the Airstream owners in forming a Club. The Airstreamers put together a Constitution, and a club was formed in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada in August 1955. She went home to Bakersfield California and opened the WBCC (later WBCCI) Headquarters in our home
Helen later wrote: “He was a man with an amazing understanding of people, their problems, their abilities, and, I might add, their endurance.
“He could throw out challenges faster than they could be picked up. He kept all of those associated with him working beyond their known capacity and accomplishing what they knew full well to be impossible. He had an uncanny way of giving confidence; when he said you could do it, you didn’t question him, you did it. He was an embodiment of the pioneer spirit which gave America its tough fiber.
“I have never worked so hard in my life as I have with Airstream. If I had had any idea of all that was entailed I would never have even dared to try my present job. But Wally said I was the one for the job and I didn’t question him. I guess I was completely brain-washed.
“Whatever happened, I have never had a job so rewarding in so many ways.”
Helen’s congeniality, work ethics, enthusiasm for travel, love for Airstream owners, writing skills, organizational talent, have been not lost to time either. Today her baby, the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, is 55 years old. She assisted Wally in the dream, their dream and yours.
The Wally Byam Creed
“In the heart of these words is an entire life’s dream. To those of you who find in the promise of these words your promise, I bequeath this creed… my dream belongs to you.”
“To place the great wide world at your doorstep for you who yearn to travel with all the comforts of home.
To provide a more satisfying, meaningful way of travel that offers complete travel independence, wherever and whenever you choose to go or stay.
To keep alive and make real an enduring promise of high adventure and faraway lands… of rediscovering old places and new interests.
To open a whole world of new experiences… a new dimension in enjoyment where travel adventure and good fellowship are your constant companions.
To encourage clubs and rallies that provide an endless source of friendships, travel fun and personal expressions.
To lead caravans wherever the four winds blow… over twinkling boulevards, across trackless deserts… to the traveled and untraveled corners of the earth.
To play some part in promoting international goodwill and understanding among the peoples of the world through person-to-person contact.
To refine and perfect our product by continuous travel-testing over the highways and byways of the world.
To strive endlessly to stir the venturesome spirit that moves you to follow a rainbow to its end… and thus make your travel dreams come true.”
NBC’s Weekend TODAY Show will interview RVIA spokesman and noted RV historian David Woodworth Saturday morning.
The segment will feature a 2010 Fleetwood Discovery and a 1916 Telescoping Apartment RV. The segment is scheduled to air live outside TODAY’s New York studios between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. EST, according to an alert from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
During the segment, viewers will see and hear about the evolution of RVing over the past century. Woodworth will also convey key messages such as the value and benefits of RV ownership.
As this is a live news program, the segment could be pre-empted by breaking news. Check your local listings to confirm the time the Weekend TODAY Show airs in your area.
RVIA and its public relations agency, Barton Gilanelli & Associates, continue to generate positive national and local RV stories about the RV industry and its centennial celebration.
Resolutions declaring June 2010 as “RV Centennial Celebration Month” have been adopted by the state legislatures in Indiana, Iowa and Louisiana over the past several weeks, according to RVIA Today Express.
The Florida state senate has also introduced an RV Centennial resolution (FL S 2680), but it has yet to be voted on.
The Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) worked with the Indiana state Legislature to have that state’s resolution adopted, and Winnebago Industries Inc. worked closely with the Iowa Legislature for its adoption of a resolution “in support of the ideals and goals” of the RV Centennial. Maurice LeBlanc of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Robert, La., worked with state Rep. Steve Pugh to get the resolution passed there.
RVIA Vice President of Government Affairs Dianne Farrell said, “We are pleased that Indiana, Iowa, and Louisiana have honored the RV industry on the occasion of its 100th Anniversary, and we expect additional proclamations to be issued by several Governors as we approach June.”
On the federal side, both chambers of Congress have introduced resolutions that would officially recognize June 2010 as RV Centennial Celebration Month.
The Senate resolution (S. Res. 410) was introduced by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., as an original cosponsor. It states “That the Senate supports and recognizes the goals and ideals of ‘RV Centennial Celebration Month’ to commemorate 100 years of enjoyment of recreation vehicles in the United States; and encourages the people of the United States to celebrate this anniversary by taking part in recreation vehicle vacations.”
In the House, Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., introduced H. Res. 1073 with Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., as an original cosponsor. The text of the House resolution is almost identical to the Senate resolution text. Each resolution includes the clause, “this homegrown industry, including recreation vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, and campgrounds, employs hundreds of thousands of people in the Nation in good-paying jobs across all 50 states.”
RVIA’s Government Affairs Department worked with House and Senate staffers to have the resolutions introduced and are now working to secure additional cosponsors to the resolutions, with the goal of having both chambers of Congress endorse the RV Centennial Celebration Month Resolution before June. RVIA encourages members to visit www.RVAct.org and send e-mail in support of a national declaration of RV Centennial Celebration Month. Go RVing is working to rally public support through its Facebook fan page and Twitter feed.
In celebration of the RV industry’s 100th anniversary, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) will host the RV Centennial Celebration, a very special event taking place June 7 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
“This is going to be an energetic extravaganza with a fun-filled festival, reception and barbecue; a special one-hour program featuring entertaining videos and presentations saluting the industry’s history; and, a cake-cutting ceremony and rousing fireworks display to cap the evening,” according to a statement by Richard Coon, RVIA president.
Tickets are now available for the RV Centennial Celebration. The deadline to purchase tickets is May 21. However, tickets purchased on or before May 14 can be obtained at the discount rate of $25 per ticket. On May 15, the regular ticket cost will be $35 per ticket. “I strongly urge you to purchase your tickets now as we expect the event to reach capacity and sell out early. Walk-ups cannot be accommodated at the event. Tickets must be purchased in advance. You can buy tickets for anyone, including spouses, colleagues and co-workers, over the age of 18,” Coon noted.
Order forms for tickets were sent to RVIA members last week along with Committee Week materials. To get tickets, fill out an order form and mail it back, along with a check, to RVIA. To get an order form, contact Huyen (Wen) Dang or Doreen Cashion in RVIA’s Show Department. Contact Huyen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 620-6003 ext. 305 and Doreen at email@example.com or (703) 620-6003 ext. 324.
A very important theme of the RV Centennial Celebration will be a “Salute to RV Workers” to honor the industry’s hard-working men and women who build the product and who are the heart and soul of our industry. This will include special recognition of those workers attending the event, a video salute from industry leaders, and the presentation of a commemorative plaque honoring the industry’s workers to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum.
“Considering the “Salute to RV Workers” theme of the event, I encourage you to use the party as an incentive to recognize your company’s best and most valued hourly line workers,” Coon said. “By providing tickets to those you would like to single out for acknowledgment, they can be part of the special salute we have planned, which will include those workers in attendance standing for recognition.”
RV historian and collector David Woodworth today (April 12) kicked off RVIA’s RV Centennial media tour with 15 interviews conducted via satellite with local network affiliates from Boston to Yuma, as well as cable channels across the country. Woodworth’s interviews began airing live at 7:45 a.m. this morning and continued through the early afternoon, according to a news release.
“For a century, Americans have enjoyed exploring what’s over the next hill and around the bend,” Woodworth said during the morning’s interviews. “That pioneering spirit is still alive and well today.”
Woodworth will spend the next two weeks traveling to media markets across the country with a 1916 Telescoping Apartment RV and a modern 2010 Fleetwood Discovery, talking to reporters about the RV industry’s century of bringing families closer together. The tour will include a live appearance on NBC’s Weekend Today show on Saturday (April 17).
“For 100 years, Americans have enjoyed the freedom that RVs provide,” said Woodworth, widely recognized as a leading RV historian. He once owned the world’s largest collection of antique RVs, now on display at the RV Heritage Museum in Elkhart, Ind., and consults with the Smithsonian.
The roots of RVing are as old as pioneers and covered wagons. “The first mass-produced motorized campers were built in 1910,” says Woodworth, the preeminent collector of early RVs and RV camping memorabilia. “Before then, people camped in private rail cars that were pulled to sidings along train routes. 1910 brought a new freedom to people who didn’t want to be limited by the rail system. RVs allowed them to go where they wanted, when they wanted.”
Known as “auto campers” or “camping trailers,” these vehicles were the forerunners of today’s modern RVs.
“The first RVs offered minimal comforts compared to today’s homes-on-wheels,” says Woodworth. “But they did provide the freedom to travel anywhere, to get a good night’s sleep and enjoy home cooking. One notable exception to today’s RV was the bathroom. Back in 1910, it was usually either yonder tree or yonder bush.”
Today, RV travelers are able to enjoy all the comforts and conveniences of home while they’re on the road. RVs can come fully equipped with gourmet kitchens, baths and living rooms, and bedrooms that slide out at the push of a button to create extra space.
“We take great pride in our past and look forward to a bright future,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “RVing has been able to thrive and grow because people still enjoy the fun and freedom it provides.”
Winnebago Industries Inc. recently accepted House Resolution 123 (No. 4) from the Iowa House of Representatives on behalf of the RV Centennial celebration, according to a news release.
Winnebago Industries’ Chairman, CEO and President Bob Olson, Vice President of Product Development Bill O’Leary and PR/IR Manager Sheila Davis were on hand for the presentation of the resolution at the Iowa State Capital on March 16.
Reps. Henry V. Rayhons, Marcella R. Frevert, David E. Heaton, Mark A. Kuhn, Brian J. Quirk, Sharon S. Steckman and Linda L. Upmeyer presented the resolution to the House of Representatives. The resolution supports and recognizes the goals and ideals of RV Centennial Celebration Month to commemorate 100 years of enjoyment of recreation vehicles in the United States.
The resolution cites the proud history of recreation vehicles, which has its origins in 1910. The resolution states, “The House of Representatives supports and recognizes the goals and ideals of ‘RV Centennial Celebration Month’ to commemorate 100 years of enjoyment of recreation vehicles in the United States and recognizes the contributions made by Iowa’s own John K. Hanson and Winnebago Industries’ employees to develop the RV industry. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mr. Hanson and the Winnebago Industries team, the name ‘Winnebago’ is synonymous with RV travel and has brought prosperity to thousands of Iowans over the decades.”
As the spring retail show season shifts into high gear, RV industry members are celebrating the RV Centennial in a variety of unique ways, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Multiple consumer RV shows are participating in Centennial Charlie’s Cross Country Caravan: 100 Days to Celebrate 100 Years of RVing by hosting the Official Ambassador of the 2010 RV Centennial – a 34-inch American black bear stuffed animal – on his road trip to honor the people who love RVing and the workers who are the heart and soul of the RV industry.
Centennial Charlie, who is inspired by the bear in Go RVing’s 2010 “Ambassadors of Affordability” ad campaign, is a popular draw at the consumer events, according to show promoters. Mark House reported from the 41st Annual RV Supershow in Oklahoma City that Centennial Charlie “was a hit with our crowd.” And Dave Kelly of the Florida RV trade Association (FRVTA) reported from the Jacksonville, Fla., RV Show, “several people wanted to take him home!”
Several RV manufacturers and suppliers are also planning to host Centennial Charlie, with many scheduling employee, dealer, and customer appreciation events around his visit. RV dealerships are also taking advantage of Centennial Charlie’s visits to include him in rallies and draw attention to the industry’s 100th anniversary. To date, Charlie has met thousands of consumers and RV industry employees across seven states, with many more to come.
During Centennial Charlie’s visits, staff of RV companies and consumer shows take photos of the bear with RV workers and showgoers to be included in a video chronicle of the mascot’s tour. The video will be shared with the RV industry at its June 7 celebration at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, and later will be posted on YouTube.
In other Centennial developments, the state governments of Iowa and Indiana have each adopted resolutions declaring June 2010 to be RV Centennial Celebration month. The Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) worked with the Indiana state legislature to have the resolution adopted, and Winnebago Industries Inc. worked closely with the Iowa legislature for its adoption of a resolution “in support of the ideals and goals” of the RV Centennial.
To commemorate the industry’s anniversary, the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum has produced patches embroidered with the RV Centennial logo and designed to attach to service uniforms. The full-color patches are available for purchase through the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum for $2 each by calling (800) 378-8694.
“The RV Centennial offers a terrific opportunity for our entire industry – including campgrounds and dealers – to take a moment to acknowledge our success, and to also thank the terrific employees and consumers who have contributed to create a hundred-year old industry that is focused on bringing families closer together,” said RVIA President Richard Coon.
Industry members are encouraged to make use of the message board at www.rvcentennial.org to discuss their Centennial Celebration plans. Message board participants have already posted terrific ideas for celebrating the industry’s 100th Anniversary, reporting on events they have planned, and unique ways to use the official RV Centennial logo on company websites, marketing materials and even on celebratory cakes.
Editor’s Note: From Gary La Bella, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), comes this update on PR Committee activities and Committee Week:
In our last update to the Public Relations Committee following a successful Outlook and Louisville show, we reiterated our confidence that the sun would shine again on our industry in 2010. One quarter in, with Committee Week approaching, our Centennial year is off to a good start with positive news that the RV market is indeed recovering from the nation’s economic downturn. Shipments are trending higher, and Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan is now projecting that wholesale shipments will rise by 30% in 2010.
RV Recovery Is Big News
Because of our aggressive outreach to media, stories about the RV industry’s recovery are appearing in top national news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit News, Fox Business, the Associated Press, Bloomberg radio and U.S. News & World Report. In addition, RV lifestyle and Centennial coverage has already appeared in outlets such as The New York Times and National Public Radio, with more coming up as spring and RV Centennial Celebration Month (June) near.
Current coverage echoes themes and storylines promoted by RVIA — that the RV industry is a leading economic indicator, that RVing has remained popular even through the downturn and that RVing is cost-effective and offers a great value.
RV Centennial Tour
RVIA PR is in the final planning stages for the RV Centennial Tour featuring RV historian David Woodworth. The tour will launch April 12 from the RV Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart, where David will be available for interview via satellite by media outlets around the country. After that, David will hit the road in a Discovery motorhome Fleetwood RV has generously offered in response to an invitation sent to manufacturer members. He’ll tow a 1916 Telescoping RV to highlight the old and the new in RVs and to promote our key messages.
Upcoming Vehicle Loan Opportunities
We’re also working with several major media outlets that have requested vehicle loans so they can write first-hand stories about the RV experience. This type of exposure is important in establishing a positive image with a large audience of potential buyers in our target demographic. Publications expressing interest include Redbook (an offering letter went out earlier this week), MotorWeek, Ser Padres and Parenting. You will receive offering letters for each of these opportunities as we’re able to confirm details.
RVIA Committee Week in Elkhart
Looking forward, Committee Week will take a different shape this year as the industry gathers to celebrate our centennial, tackle the work performed by RVIA’s many committees and hold the association’s annual membership meeting. To maximize attendance and lessen expenses for many members, Committee Week will be in Elkhart/South Bend instead of Washington, D.C. To accommodate all the activities planned for Committee Week, a shortened three-hour Public Relations Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 8 from 2-5 p.m. at the Century Center in South Bend.
We hope you’re planning to attend the RV Centennial Celebration on the evening of Monday, June 7, at the RV Museum and Hall of Fame. It’s going to be an energetic festival, reception and barbecue with a special one-hour program featuring entertaining videos and presentations saluting the RV industry, a cake-cutting ceremony and fireworks display to cap the evening. The party will be themed to salute the industry’s workers who are its heart and soul. Committee Week registration materials will be mailed out during the first week of April. We look forward to seeing you all in Indiana this June.
As the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) prepares to roll out a series of events and related activities commemorating the industry’s 2010 Centennial, RVBusiness magazine and RVBUSINESS.com are setting up a special Centennial issue focusing among other things on the “75 Most Influential People” in the history of the U.S. RV industry.
“Talk about a tough job,” says RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg, in commenting on the upcoming selection process. “We sat down recently to start making a list of likely nominees and soon realized just how intimidating this process is going to be. I mean, when you get beyond the most obvious individuals like Winnebago’s John K. Hanson and Holiday Rambler’s Richard Klingler and Fleetwood’s John Crean and start looking at who else might be on that list, you begin to realize just how difficult this process can be.”
To help build a pool of names, RVBusiness is adding an application this morning (March 13) to the RVBUSINESS.com homepage, a click-through feature through which website visitors can nominate anyone they think ought to be on RVB’s list of the industry’s “75 Most Influential People.”
That list will be published in a June issue that includes an array of centennial coverage and will be released in sync with RVIA’s 100th Anniversary Party June 7 at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind., during what has been designated as “RV Centennial Celebration Month.”
RVIA’s invitation-only industry party, one of several Centennial projects spearheaded by RVIA designed to lift the industry’s post-recessionary spirits, will feature a “Salute to RV Workers,” a live band, fireworks, centennial salutes from RVing celebrities and other VIPs and the unveiling of an RV-themed time capsule that will remain on display at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum.
“We know there are many possible candidates who would likely qualify as having been among the ’75 Most Influential’ individuals in the industry’s history, both from the past and including people who are still working in the industry today,” said Goldenberg. “So, we’ve decided to open the doors on this project to the industry at large to make sure we don’t overlook a lot of people who ought to be mentioned on this list.
“In saying that, however, we realize full well that we will inevitably slip up and overlook some people whose contributions were clearly vital to their companies and to the industry at large because the universe of names over a century’s time is simply too large,” he added. “But we’re trying to keep those oversights to a minimum.”
As the RV industry celebrates its centennial in 2010, the nation’s oldest consumer RV ”club” is not too far behind.
Tin Can Tourists, an organization whose members primarily own vintage travel trailers and motorhomes, this year marks its 91st year — although with an asterisk because those years were not consecutive. Tin Can Tourists experienced a 20-year hiatus that ended in 1998 when Michigan high school teacher and coach Forest Bone and his wife, Jeri, resurrected the organization.
”It kind of evolved,” said Bone, 66, who spends his time between Bradenton, Fla., and Milford, Mich. ”We were charter members of the Vintage Airstream Club and I was president in 1998. We had begun formulating plans to have an all-makes-and-models club, and we’d known about the Tin Can Tourists, which hadn’t been active in a number of years.
”So, we went through all the trademark searches to make sure we weren’t infringing on an existing organization and we didn’t find anything.”
For the most part, the original Tin Can Tourists were minimalists who might, for instance, have driven a Model T Ford with a tent-like extension used as the sleeping area. ”There was one that even used the running board as a headrest,” Bone said.
Today, Tin Can Tourists typically own vintage units but they don’t have to. ”That’s a misconception,” Bone said. ”Anyone can be a member, and they can take part in anything the club can do.
Still, he said, 75% of Tin Can Tourist members own vintage trailers. Shasta, Serro Scotty and Airstream brands are popular. ”There are lots of ‘canned ham’ trailers that look like Shastas that were manufactured in the ’50s,” Bone said. ”A lot of our members own those.”
The cost of membership in Tin Can Tourists is minimal — only $20 a year. And more than 800 members are led regionally by seven representatives in North America and others in the United Kingdom and Japan who provide input to the organization and run Tin Can Tourists get-togethers.
The Tin Can Tourists originated from early ”RVers” who ate their meals out of tin cans while they traveled because of the lack of refrigeration.
Their formal objective was to ”unite fraternally all autocampers” with guiding principles being ”clean camps, friendliness among campers, decent behavior and clean (and) wholesome entertainment for those in camp.”
The club was formally organized in 1919 with Charles T. Falles, known as the ”Mayor of Easy Street,” the organization’s first Royal Sargent.”
A tin can later became a sign of distress — sort of like a road flair when hung from the radiator of a car. ”If somebody passed by and was a fellow Tin Can Tourist, they would stop to help,” Bone said. ”There was a Good Samaritan aspect to it. Flat tires were a huge problem in the early travel days and there were a lot of other problems.”
The journey from Michigan where the group held its summer reunions in the 1920s to Desoto Park in Tampa, Fla., where the Tourists headquartered in the early 1920s, might take three weeks.
At its height, the number of Tin Can Tourists numbered close to 100,000 and the New York Times published a feature story about the group in August 1926 and Life magazine a pictorial in January 1939.
As the number of Tin Can Tourists dwindled into the 1960s and 1970s, the original club’s last winter reunion took place in 1978 at Eustis RV Park, Eustis, Fla., according to a trove of historic files donated to the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.
The reconstituted Tin Can Tourists’ first ”gathering” in 1998 in Milford, Mich., drew 21 units. The tourists’ 2010 Winter Convention Feb. 25-28 at Lake Manatee State Park east of Bradenton drew 50 RVs and about 120 people on a first-come first-serve basis due to site restrictions.
At the beginning of this year, the club had 834 remembers, down from just over 1,000 at the start of 2009. ”With the combination of gas prices and the economy, we took a pretty good hit on membership,” Bone said. ”But we are slowly returning.”
The Tin Can Tourists 12th Annual Gathering at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Mich., will be May 20-23, along with two other regional gatherings scheduled that same weekend in New York and New Mexico.
In addition, three other local gatherings will be staged this year in Michigan and three in Florida while regional rallies will take place in Canada, California, Washington, Arizona and New York.
John Culp, 84, who keeps a post office box in Clairmont, Fla., attended the new Tin Can Tourists first Florida ”gathering” in 2000.
Culp said he joined Tin Can Tourists after hearing that Bone had started the club again that he had heard of as a youth.
”I joined because of the people,” said Culp, who currently is a full-timer living in a 24-foot 1947 Westcraft travel trailer, a high-end all-aluminum brand favored by the Hollywood movie star crowd, that he and his parents bought new for $3,200.
”It’s pretty much the original,” Culp said of the 62-year-old trailer. ”They’ve stood the test of time. They don’t leak and they don’t deteriorate.”
Karen Campbell and her husband, Kenny, who founded the Southwest Vintage Camper Association in 2003 in Albuquerque, N.M., have been members of Tin Can Tourists since 2005. Karen Campbell currently is the organization’s Southwest Region representative and will host the 2nd Annual Tin Can Tourists Exchange Encampment May 20-23 at Rancho Sedona (Ariz.) RV Park.
”We’re a little more of a social group than traditional campers are,” said Karen Campbell, who has refurbished 29 vintage trailers since getting the vintage trailer bug in 2002, including Shastas, Boles Areos, Airstreams, Streamlines and Spartans.
”We fix them up slowly,” she said. ”It’s not really a business. It’s a joy.”
Vintage RVs appeal to women for reasons that are different than men, she said.
”From a woman’s point of view, we like them because we get to play house,” Karen Campbell offered. ”A lot of women ‘theme’ their trailers with curtains and fabrics and interior things. The thing that men enjoy about vintage trailers is that they are simpler to operate. You don’t have to worry about whether the slide is going to go out or whether the leveler will be working.”
To help bring attention to and celebrate the RV industry’s centennial year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has kicked off “100 Days of RV History and Lifestyle” tweets on Go RVing’s Twitter account.
Each day for the 100 days leading up to June 7 and the all-industry RV Centennial celebration at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, RVIA will post a “tweet” about the RV lifestyle or the RV industry’s history on popular social networking site Twitter, the RVIA stated in a news release.
The tweets are intended to raise awareness among the more than 1,000 members of the media and consumers following Go RVing on Twitter of the reasons for RVing’s 100 years of popularity. Ranging from the factual to the funny, the tweets touch on interesting tidbits about RVing that will encourage Twitter followers to visit GoRVing.com or rvia.org.
Recent tweets have included, “8.2 million households own at least one RV. Curious? Find more industry facts @ RVIA.org” and “Pets have always loved to travel in RVs too. Not just dogs and cats — RVers take along birds and gerbils and fish – oh my!”
Each tweet is labeled with the RV Centennial hashtag, No. RV100, which allows Twitter users to follow discussions of particular subjects and to create groupings of tweets on the same topic.
To follow Go RVing on Twitter, sign up for a free account at www.Twitter.com.
Both chambers of Congress introduced resolutions this month that officially recognize June 2010 as RV Centennial Celebration Month, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
The Senate resolution (S. Res. 410), introduced Feb. 4 by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., with fellow Hoosier GOP Sen. Richard Lugar as an original cosponsor, states “That the Senate supports and recognizes the goals and ideals of ‘RV Centennial Celebration Month’ to commemorate 100 years of enjoyment of recreation vehicles in the United States; and encourages the people of the United States to celebrate this anniversary by taking part in recreation vehicle vacations.”
In the House, Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., introduced H. Res. 1073 with Rep. Mark Souder , R-Ind., as an original cosponsor. The text of the House resolution is almost identical to the Senate resolution text. Each resolution includes the clause “this homegrown industry, including recreation vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, and campgrounds, employs hundreds of thousands of people in the Nation in good-paying jobs across all 50 states.”
RVIA’s Government Affairs Department worked with House and Senate staffers to have the resolutions introduced and are now working to secure additional cosponsors to the resolutions, with the goal of having both chambers of Congress endorse the RV Centennial Celebration Month Resolution before June.
As America’s RV industry revs up for a year’s worth of celebrations in recognition of its 2010 Centennial, RVIA is sending the Official Ambassador of the 2010 RV Centennial – a 34-inch American black bear stuffed animal – on a road trip to honor the people who love RVing and the workers who are the heart and soul of the RV industry.
Starting this month, RV companies and consumer shows participating in “Centennial Charlie’s Cross-Country Caravan” will host the 2010 RV Centennial mascot for a few days before sending him on to his next stop on the 100-day tour. Centennial Charlie, who is inspired by the bear in Go RVing’s 2010 “Ambassadors of Affordability” ad campaign, will bring the industry’s celebrations to RV enthusiasts and RV employees in a fun, unconventional way.
“Since a central theme of the Centennial Celebration is a ‘Salute to RV Workers,’ we wanted to be sure to reach out to those workers with our Centennial Ambassador,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “We in the RV industry know that the hard-working men and women on the factory floors, in the offices and out in the field are the heart and soul of our industry.” On the occasion of its centennial anniversary, the RV industry will thank and honor its workers, whose commitment to creating quality RV products has helped bring American families closer together for a century.
During Charlie’s visits, staff of RV companies and consumer shows will take photos of the bear with RV workers and showgoers and, at the conclusion of Charlie’s journey, RVIA will produce a video chronicle of the mascot’s tour including photographs taken on his travels. The video will be shared with the RV industry at its June 7 celebration at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, and later will be posted on YouTube.
RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella said, “When Charlie comes to visit RVIA member companies and consumer shows, he will be our industry’s ambassador in honoring both its workers and enthusiasts, so they too can celebrate the RV Centennial in a novel, exciting way.”
The American Black Bear is native to North America, and resides throughout most of the United States. An American black bear named “Charlie” appeared in the 2006 – 2009 “What Will You Discover? Go RVing” television commercials. An animated American Black Bear appears in the Go RVing “Ambassadors of Affordability” commercials, set to launch Feb. 12.
Show promoters and RV industry companies interested in hosting Centennial Charlie should contact Bernadette Murphy at RVIA at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 620-6003 ext. 310.
Editor’s Note: The following column by Sue Bray, executive director of the Good Sam Club, discusses the RV centennial, which will be celebrated this year. Her column appears in the February issue of Highways magazine. Affinity Group Inc. is the parent company of the Good Sam Club and www.RVBUSINESS.com.
It was a much simpler world 100 years ago. But with so many technological advances just around the corner, 1910 must have been an exciting time to be alive. Like today’s world, in which the latest computer technologies open up new possibilities, the world of 1910 was opening up to motorized travel. Innovative horseless vehicles were embarking on new highways and byways across the continent.
The lure of the open road had enticed tourists prior to 1910. People traveled to camping spots by horse and wagon, but those trips were restricted by time and distance. A few wealthy excursionists had tent trailers custom-built so they could enjoy the outdoors in relative comfort. But in 1910, the adventure of travel on North America’s developing roads began to change as three manufacturers, led by Pierce Arrow, started building motorized campers. In 1914 towable tent trailers were introduced, and in 1917 the first fifth-wheel appeared on the horizon.
Fortunately, a handful of historians have preserved this past. David Woodworth, for one, has chronicled RV history for decades. In 1986, David arrived at the headquarters of the Good Sam Club driving a Model A and towing a Ziegelmeyer tent trailer. We began working together, and for years David toured the country on behalf of Good Sam, meeting with club chapters and other groups and displaying his ever-growing collection of vintage vehicles. He’s taken his amazing assortment of RVs and RV gear on media tours representing the RV industry. Today, much of his collection is on display at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
David has a wealth of information on RVing’s early days. He even has a collection of collapsible coat hangers! He tells how auto pioneers Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, both avid campers, made plans for RV manufacturing while on a train ride in 1915.
David’s also researched the evolution of campgrounds. In the 1800s, he relates, many towns built wagon yards where visitors could release their horses and store their wagons when they were passing through. By 1914, the now-obsolete wagon yards were converted into free municipal campgrounds. “After World War I,” says David, “cities started charging 25 cents a night to camp in their campgrounds, basically in an effort to weed out the undesirables.”
In 2010, the RV industry will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Events recognizing the milestone will be held at the Elkhart museum and various RV dealerships, shows and campgrounds around the country.
The Good Sam Club is sponsoring a special RV History Caraventure en route to the Louisville Rally, which runs July 22 through 25. Up to 100 RVs, both old and new, will meet at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, travel to Dearborn, Mich., to visit the Ford Museum, then drive on to the 2010 Rally in Louisville. Seminars held along the way will offer insights into today’s RVing experience and RV travel’s fascinating past. (Caraventure contact information is available at (800) 829-5140.)
At the Rally, we’ll have a special area for vintage RVs to park and display life as it was in the early days of RV travel.
For David Woodworth, RVing is here to stay: “It’s gone through World War I, the Depression, World War II, high gas prices and high interest rates and it’s still such a popular activity.”
We RVers know it’ll keep on going and we look forward to the next 100 years.