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Palm Springs Show Features Vintage Airstreams

February 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A vintage Airstream trailer in a California redwood forest. Photo courtesy of Vintage Airstream.com.

A vintage Airstream trailer in a California redwood forest. Photo courtesy of Vintage Airstream.com.

In the 1950s, the Airstream trailer was the King of the Road.

They began hitting American roads in the mid-’30s, after founder Wally Byam bought out Hawley Bowlus’ bankrupt company. Bowlus had been the chief designer of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis,” and as a result, his trailers were sleek, silvery and aerodynamic, according to The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, Calif.

The years following World War II through the 1960s were the most popular for Airstream. In was an era when the family vacation was just taking off in earnest.

“(The trailers) were the way to travel and bring all the comforts of home with you,” said Bob Wheeler, president of Airstream Inc. of Jackson Center, Ohio.

Which is why the Vintage Airstream and Trailers Show, scheduled for  Feb. 19-21 at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs, is such a great addition to Modernism Week, said Cindy Eugenis, a member of the Modernism Week board of directors.

Eugenis was the instigator in bringing the travel trailer show to this year’s event.

“We were doubling the number of events this year and brainstorming what we could add to the schedule that would be fun and fit in,” she said.

There was a fairly strict criteria for the four Airstreams and four other Modernism-era travel trailers to be admitted to the show.

“They had to be authentic,” Eugenis said. “We realized that parts wear out, or furnishings that needed to be reupholstered, but they had to be from the original design.”

Those vintage trailers are as popular as the modern Airstreams, Wheeler said.

“We get calls all the time from people who just bought a vintage Airstream, or they inherited a 1958 model that was originally bought by their grandfather and passed down through the family. They want to bring it in to be restored because they want it to look the way it did when it was new.”

Because Jackson Center is a very small town, Airstream’s 26-bay shop is staffed with employees who have been with the company for as long as 50 years, according to Wheeler.

And that’s a good thing. “There isn’t a lot of documentation on the older trailers and these are the guys who probably built them,” he said. They are the company’s living institutional memory. “Which is why we take a lot of digital photos of the each of the restorations we do.”

While the exteriors of all the trailers will be available for free viewing Feb. 19-21, the interiors will be only be on display Feb. 20. Tours are slated for 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Cost is $10.

In addition to the interior tours, the day is also packed with other trailer-related events at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs.

There will also be a small vendor area, “probably by the pool,” Eugenis said, with booths about trailer life from Just Fabulous, including a book signing with Bruce Littlefield, author of “Airstream Living” and “Garage Sale America,” and editor Russ Banham (“Wanderlust: Airstream at 75”).

The day’s events will be capped with a screening of “The Long, Long Trailer,” the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz flick about how not to start a marriage, complete with vintage cocktails, TV dinners and s’mores.

“We wanted to have something fun,” Eugenis said. “Hopefully this will grow into a yearly part of Modernism Week.”

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