History of the Bambi
(Reposted with permission from the original author.)
Airstream began with a single man and a most singular dream. The man was Wally Byam: his dream, to build the perfect travel trailer. One that would move like a stream of air. One that would be light enough to be towed by a standard automobile. One that would provide first-class living accommodations anywhere in the world.
Inspired by the flying monkeys in the 1939 musical fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz, Wally Byam headed out to rural Kansas to try to capture and study a few of these magical creatures
. Unfortunately, the evil connotation which was now unfairly associated with these marvelous beasts brought them to the brink of extinction due to extreme over-hunting. And after many weeks of scanning the Kansas sky, sources say that Wally never did see a flying monkey up close. The 1940 Flying Monkey project was thus scrapped. The Flying Cloud, however, would be introduced some years later.
1941 was another big year in the company's history, and once again, Hollywood and Kansas where at the epicenter. Wally's good friend Walt Disney had fallen on hard times. He desperately needed an idea for a comeback film. Wally managed to convince Walt to go back to Kansas with him to try to find the elusive flying monkey. He figured Walt would surely see the intrinsic bravery and resourcefulness that these noble animals possessed and that he would be able to make a documentary reclaiming their legacy.
1941, however, was also one of the worst years for tornados, especially in Kansas. Wally and Walt never did see their flying monkey that year. Deer, on the other hand, especially young does, were flying everywhere. "Does," Wally was heard to exclaim wistfully, "move like a stream of air!"
Apparently, due to the extreme over-hunting of the flying monkey, the deer population had exploded exponentially. Undeterred, these two pioneers joined forces and played the hand they were dealt. Armed with only a few bushels of fireweed and some graham crackers (nitrous oxide and cookies would be used some years later), Wally and Walt convinced a number of young does
to come back to California with them
The once humble documentary soon evolved into an epic film about bravery and the great outdoors: Bambi, the film, was thus created. Released in 1942, during World War II, the film lost money at the box office for its first release, but recouped its considerable cost during the 1947 re-release. Interestingly, May of 1947 was also when Airstream's production resumed at the Los Angeles Metro Airport in Van Nuys and when the first Airstream Bambi hit the road....
And with it was born yet another dream, a dream of new freedom, new places, new experiences, and new friendships. It was a dream so powerful, so enduring it did far more than create a new way of travel; it created a new way of life shared by thousands upon thousands of families.