Heritage NumbersDamon Beals

Airstream and WBCCI have a unique shared heritage that cannot be duplicated by any other RV brand nor club; a heritage of exciting, globetrotting travel, to Europe, Cuba, Africa, and even Around the World!  The club has created a new category of membership numbers called “Heritage Numbers”, which are WBCCI membership numbers that were used on Airstreams that participated in historically significant events. Currently 83 membership numbers have been declared “Heritage Numbers” and these numbers will no longer be reassigned to members.

Heritage numbers of note:

#1 – Wally and Stella Byam
The founder of Airstream Corporation.  Wally Byam personally lead most of the early Airstream company caravans.

#2 – Helen and Dale Schwamborn
Helen was Wally Byam’s cousin and her list of contributions to Airstream and WBCCI is long. She was responsible for the formation of WBCCI during the 1955 Eastern Canada Caravan, the development of and participation in several historically significant caravans, and she was the WBCCI Executive Secretary and the Blue Beret Magazine Head Editor for many years. Helen’s son Dale participated in several caravans and was an advance scout on the 1959-60 African Caravan.

#81 – Andy and Connie Charles
Andy joined Airstream in 1947 and rose to become the Airstream Ohio Plant President in 1952 and the Airstream Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1962. Andy and Connie participated in five caravans and developed and personally led two caravans, with the most significant being the 1963-64 Around the World Caravan (ATWC). Their children, Nick (21) and Christine (17) Charles were as-signed their own WBCCI #35 and were the scouts on the ATWC, traveling ahead of the main group in a Ford C700 truck with an Airstream body on the back.

#100 – Art and Caroline Costello
Art joined Airstream in 1947 and rose to become the Airstream California Plant President in 1952 and the Airstream President in 1962. His leadership ensured the continued existence and growth of Airstream (and because of that, WBCCI) after Wally Byam’s death in 1962. Art and Caroline participated in four caravans and personally led one.


The remaining 79 approved Heritage Numbers belonged to members on the official rosters of the 1959-60 Cape Town to Cairo Caravan and the 1963-64 Around the World Caravan. These were the two longest, most challenging, and most publicized Airstream caravans ever run. They are more responsible for the Airstream travel mystique than any other caravan and are a source of pride for club members. Over a dozen Airstreams from these two caravans are known to still exist, with six currently owned by WBCCI members. All the participants on these two caravans are pioneers worthy of recognition:

The approved Heritage Numbers are: (6/27/2020)

1, 2, 35, 50, 81, 83, 87, 100, 115, 120, 163, 165, 310, 329, 342, 360, 503, 598, 606, 608, 616, 627, 692, 747, 751, 767, 975, 985, 1042, 1166, 1199, 1242, 1309, 1408, 1506, 1604, 1954, 1986, 2058, 2186, 2194, 2198, 2201, 2209, 2279, 2345, 2359, 2374, 2375, 2380, 2397, 2400, 2420, 2421, 2474, 2476, 2925, 3238, 3317, 3560, 3690, 3912, 4032, 4091, 4255, 4936, 5232, 5289, 5618, 5980, 6065, 6082, 6472, 6524, 6705, 6730, 6768, 6781, 7170, 7305, 7505, 7667, 8511, 8671

Membership numbers of historic note:

9


#1 – Wally and Stella Byam

Wally and Stella Byam, photo taken on the 1956 European Caravan

The founder of Airstream Corporation.


#2 – Helen and Dale Schwamborn,

Dale and Helen – 1955 Eastern Canada Caravan

Helen was Wally Byam’s cousin and her list of contributions to Airstream and WBCCI is long. She was responsible for the formation of WBCCI during the 1955 Eastern Canada Caravan, the development of and participation in several historically significant caravans, and she was the WBCCI Executive Secretary and the Blue Beret Magazine Head Editor for many years. Helen’s son Dale participated in several caravans and was an advance scout on the 1959-60 African Caravan.


#81 – Andy and Connie Charles

Charles Family – Before the Around the World Caravan (ATWC)

Andy joined Airstream in 1947 and rose to become the Airstream Ohio Plant President in 1952 and the Airstream Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1962. Andy and Connie participated in five caravans and developed and personally led two caravans, with the most significant being the 1963-64 Around the World Caravan (ATWC). Their children, Nick (21) and Christine (17) Charles were as-signed their own WBCCI #35 and were the scouts on the ATWC, traveling ahead of the main group in a Ford C700 truck with an Airstream body on the back.


#100 – Art and Caroline Costello

Costello Family – 1957 Mexico Caravan

Art joined Airstream in 1947 and rose to become the Airstream California Plant President in 1952 and the Airstream President in 1962. His leadership ensured the continued existence and growth of Airstream (and because of that, WBCCI) after Wally Byam’s death in 1962. Art and Caroline participated in four caravans and personally led one.


#9 – Fred (Pop) and Ethel (Mom) Riley

Mom and Pop Riley Circa Mid 1950s

Fred E. Riley was a locomotive engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad before his 1952 retirement at age
70. Ethel also worked for the railroad and that is where she first met Fred. It is reported that by 1960 the Rileys had already traveled more than 80,000 miles with their Airstream. Undoubtedly, many of those miles occurred during the first 10 of their eventual 16 caravans:
4 – Western Canada Summer 1954
5 – Mexico West Coast Winter 1955
6 – Eastern Canada Summer 1955
7 – Mexico Winter 1956
9 – Western Canada Summer 1956
11 – Mexico Winter 1957
13 – Eastern Canada Summer 1957
16 – Mexico Winter 1958
18 – Western Canada Summer 1958
21 – Eastern Canada Summer 1959
27 – Kentucky Derby-Indy 500 1961
28 – Eastern Canada Summer 1961
29 – Mexico Winter 1962
30 – Western Canada Summer 1962
31 – Western Mexico Fall 1962
39 – Eastern Canada Summer 1964

The origin of the Rileys’ nicknames as “Mom” and “Pop” are unknown, but this is how they were affectionately known in the Airstream community. Pop was always quick to volunteer. He headed the Parking Committee on just his second caravan, the famous “Caravan 500” to Mexico in the winter of 1955 – the one with nearly 500 trailers! Pop is best known, though, as the first President of the Wally Byam Caravan Club, having been elected to that position at age 73 during his third caravan, the 1955 Eastern Canada Caravan. Wally Byam even selected
the Rileys to lead the 1956 Western Canada Caravan that ran while he was leading the 1956 European Caravan.


Since the creation of Heritage Numbers, it has been suggested that the Riley’s #9 should be nominated to become a Heritage Number. Is volunteering to become the first president of WBCC during the 1955 Eastern Canada Caravan an appropriate “historically significant” event to justify making such a nomination?


#50 – Louis and Mildred Mousley

Mousleys – 1956 European Caravan

#50 was designated as a Heritage Number because the Mousleys participated in the 1959-60 African Caravan,
but they did so much more than merely participate in a single historic caravan.  They traveled with Wally Byam on eight early caravans, including 1956 Europe and 1956 Cuba.

On each caravan, Lou was the “Wagon Boss” leading the group to the next campsite. Lou is credited as being the
father of the “wagon wheel” parking formation, having perfected the technique for parking the Airstreams in a perfect circle using sticks and string.

#50 Leading the 1956 Europe Caravan

Lou Parking Rigs in a Wagon Wheel

Lou Parking Rigs in a Wagon Wheel

Lou Parking Rigs in a Wagon Wheel

The 1956 22’ Flying Cloud Airstream that the Mousleys used on the 1956 Europe and 1956 Cuba caravans, among
others, is currently owned by a club member and was at the 2017 International Rally in Escanaba, MI. Their 1959-60 Africa Airstream is still waiting to be rediscovered.

Mousleys 1956 Airstream in Escanaba


#165 – Oscar and Etta Payne

Oscar Payne, 91, and wife Etta, 83, of Thermopolis, Wyoming, were eldest members of first China caravan


Oscar and Etta Payne were transplanted Midwesterners who, by the time they purchased an Airstream, were owners of the Fountain of Youth Trailer Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming. The Payne’s membership number was recently converted to a Heritage Number because they participated in the 1959-60 Cape Town to Cairo Caravan, but they contributed so much more to the club over their 30 years of caravan participation and 40 years of club membership.

The Paynes participated in eleven numbered caravans:
5 – Mexico West Coast Winter 1955
8 – Europe Six Months 1956
16 – Mexico Winter 1958
17 – Central America Winter 1958
20 – Africa Holy Land 1959-60
24 – Europe Summer 1960
30 – Western Canada Summer 1962
48 – Alaska Summer 1966
N6 – Post Int’l Rally Caravan 1977
N8 – Post Int’l Rally Caravan 1979
C1 – China Caravan #1 1985


Etta Payne authored two hardcover books about major Airstream caravans:
• Home Was Never Like This – A Trailer’s Eye View of Europe, about the 1956 Europe Caravan.

• Land Yachting to Central America – A Trailer’s Eye View of our Nearest Latin Neighbors, about the 1958 Central America Caravan.

Oscar and Etta were one of four Airstream couples to travel behind the Iron Curtain to Moscow in 1960 at the
conclusion of the 1959-60 African and 1960 European caravans.

The Paynes then continued alone to India and the “Far East” into 1961 scouting a route for the 1963-64 Around the World Caravan. Their travels to Russia and “Round-the-World” were featured as regular reading in the Airstream Caravanner newspaper in the early 1960s.

Oscar and Etta’s last caravan was the first Caravan to China in 1985, during which they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary and Oscar’s 91st birthday!

The Paynes only owned two Airstreams over the years. The first was a 1955 16’ Bubble and the second was a 1957 16’ Bubble. Both were adorned with the image of the Wyoming “Bucking Bronco” on both sides.  In 1977, the Paynes claimed their 1957 Bubble had travelled 200,000 miles on only two sets of tires! Imagine doing all of those
miles in one of the smallest Airstreams ever made.

Oscar Payne and the Bubble in Russia

Etta Payne pushing in Africa


#616 – Harry and Allene Halbritter

Harry Halbritter, World Traveler

Harry Halbritter was a retired hotel and nightclub owner from San Diego, CA. Allene was an amateur artist and
avid photographer. After an ulcer forced Harry’s early retirement, he credited purchasing their first Airstream with saving his life as he and Allene quickly got hooked on personal travel and caravanning with it.

The Halbritter’s membership number was converted to a Heritage Number because of their participation on the 1959-60 African caravan but they participated in several of the biggest early caravans:
2 – Mexico West Coast Winter 1952-53
8 – Europe Six Months 1956
16 – Mexico Winter 1958
17 – Central America Winter 1958
20 – Africa Holy Land 1959-60

The Halbritters quickly became close friends with Wally Byam, and by the time of the African Caravan Wally could rely on them to hang back and help fix trailers with the mechanic, orchestrate getting the rigs thru a mud hole using ropes and muscle power, take over as the temporary wagon boss for a few days while the normal wagon boss waited for repair parts for his broken truck, or just provide a quiet spot in their Airstream for Wally to temporarily hide from the rigors of leading the caravan.

Harry Halbritter helps fix a flat in Africa

Allene had a detailed two-part article titled “Caravan to Cairo” published in the May and June 1960 issues of Trailer Topics magazine about their experiences on the 1959-60 African Caravan.

Allene Halbritter shares a drink with Wally Byam in Africa

The Halbritters were good record keepers and their notes were the basis for the late 50s/early 60s claims that you could enjoy an Airstream Caravan for just $10/day and live in your Airstream full time for just $500/month.