Longtime East Ridge resident Jackie Smith had a special visit from officials from the iconic Airstream Trailer Company who wanted to interview her and her children and record their oral history.
Jackie is the last surviving adult who went on the historic first Airstream trailer world caravan. She participated with her late husband, McGregor (“Mac”) and their three small children — Scott, Judy and Lorie.
Airstream Company archivist and historian Samantha Martin and Joe Peplinski, the Airstream Club historian, were on hand along with their film crew to interview and photograph Jackie and the family. In addition to hearing their vivid memories, they reviewed the extensive collection of newspaper clippings, photographs and movies taken by Mac who had been hired by the president of Airstream to be a member of and correspondent for the world caravan.
Mac sent articles and photographs back to the Miami Herald that were published in the newspaper’s travel section, recording their ongoing adventures. He also sent reels of film to Kodak for developing as the trip progressed.
The films and photographs will be used in the new Airstream manufacturing facility under construction in Ohio. It includes a Heritage Center with several of the vintage Airstreams from the caravan.
The family spent 14 months with the tour, leaving the U.S. with 48 Airstream trailers in September 1963. The trailers were shipped by boat from Los Angeles while the 105 participants went on another ship, meeting the caravan in Singapore. They traveled overland following the footsteps of Marco Polo.
The group covered 35,000 miles in 403 days visiting almost every country in southern Asia and Europe including western Soviet Union before returning to the U.S. from Portugal in December 1964.
The Smith children have rich memories of their adventures as the youngest participants in the group of 105 people.
What stood out to the historians was learning of the impact the trip made to the Smiths from their people-to-people experiences.
The group was able to observe so many different cultures. The Smith children feel that their experiences overseas have impacted their world views throughout their life.
According to Peplinski, the caravan was “in the right place at the right time” reflecting that today, while Airstream owners participate in caravans, none are as exotic as the original one the Smiths traveled.
In honor of the Airstream visit, the East Ridge book club read the book Mac wrote, Thank You, Marco Polo, that recaps the adventures of the trip.
To learn more about the advantages of living at East Ridge and the benefits of a maintenance-free lifestyle, call to arrange a tour at 305-256-3564.