The Little Green Airstream is a 1969 Airstream Trade Wind travel trailer with parts salvaged from an 1969 Airstream Safari. You can learn how & where I found the Airstreams here:
Why did I choose the 1969 Airstream? It happened organically, more by luck than design. For those of you who are interested in buying vintage and want to know which years (or decades) might offer the optimal Airstream for you, it’s definitely worth doing some homework first. But I’m very happy with my choice and the following is an appreciation of the ’69 models and their birth year:
The 1969 trailers are from the “Beatrice Era” (1967-1979) – indicating the period when Airstream was owned by Beatrice Companies. The new ownership meant changes in design & management, and the 1969 Airstream features the first major redesign since the Clipper model in 1936. These significant design changes to the Airstream make it more streamlined, rounder and longer, although in retrospect there are varying opinions about the quality of the trailers produced during this era. A product preview from the November 1968 issue of Woodall’s Trailer Travel magazine had this to say:
“For the first time in nine years, Airstream has introduced a new construction for their trailers, a construction which departs substantially from the former famous profile and which introduces a new look which is probably destined to become even more famous.
“Better than words, the series of pictures comparing 1968 and 1969 Airstreams explains the changes:
“The Travel Trailer Test Team has been out on the road with Airstreams often enough to recognize the thinking behind the changes in these new trailers. When you pull an Airstream you get a lot of comment; few people are neutral on the subject of Airstream. It is the Test Team’s conclusion that the changes in the Airstreams are directed straight at the principal objections voiced to them by the anti group.
“There have been those who have disparaged the cigar or bullet shape, and now the shape is altered to one with more balance and finish. There have been other objectors who have felt the Airstream interior had a cramped feeling, but the new and wider coaches have an open feeling that answers that objection. And finally, there have been those who commented that the Airstreams lacked quite the storage space of a standard, box shape. That objection, too, is largely answered by the new wider coach.”
One of the things that people love about the Airstream is the design influence from the aerospace industry going back to the original models created in the 1930’s. In a TED Talk about the creation of the CCD Airstream model in 2000, designer Christopher Deam criticizes the vintage Airstream’s design “disconnect between the exterior shell and the interior architecture… in that the shell was originally conceived as a lightweight, modern, futuristic, high-tech pod for hurtling down the freeway and the interiors were completely out of sync with that.”
In 1969 however, NASA helped to bring the concept full circle, ushering Airstream into the space-age by using the iconic vehicle to temporarily quarantine astronauts returning from the first moon voyage:
If you click on the image below, you can watch a video of then-President Richard Nixon greeting the astronauts upon their return from the moon:
The trailer that was used to quarantine the astronauts was eventually sold as military surplus and was considered “lost” for many years, until it was discovered in Marion, Alabama, at a fish hatchery. When it was finally recovered by U.S. Space & Rocket Center officials in the late 1990’s, they said it was “like finding a gold nugget.”
For me, part of the fun and interest of owning a vintage vehicle is that it gives you the wistful feeling of going back in time to the year it was made, and makes you think about the present moment in greater context. Here’s a list of happenings from 1969 that particularly hit home for me, and get me daydreaming about what life was like in the year my trailer was born:
- Richard M. Nixon is inaugurated 37th President of the US and begins “Vietnamization” in Southeast Asia during this year.
- Stonewall riot in New York City marks beginning of gay rights movement.
- A group of American Indians, led by Richard Oakes, seizes Alcatraz Island for 19 months, inspiring a wave of renewed Indian pride and government reform.
- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first humans to walk on the moon.
- The first in vitro fertilization of a human egg is performed in Cambridge, England.
- ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) goes online in December, connecting four major US universities. Designed for research, education, and government organizations, it is the foundation upon which the Internet will eventually be built.
- The scanning electron microscope is developed.
- The use of DDT is banned in residential areas.
- The first automatic teller machine in the United States is installed in Rockville Centre, New York.
- Dave Thomas opens his first restaurant in a former steakhouse in downtown Columbus, Ohio. He names the chain Wendy’s after his 8-year-old daughter, Melinda Lou (nicknamed “Wendy” by her siblings).
- Fourteen black athletes are kicked off the University of Wyoming football team for wearing black armbands into their coach’s office.
- The New York Mets defeat the Baltimore Orioles four games to one in one of the greatest World Series upsets in baseball history.
- In Toulouse, France the first Concorde test flight is conducted.
- Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch purchases the largest selling British Sunday newspaper, The News of the World.
Arts & Entertainment:
- In August, more than half a million people gather in the small, upstate New York town of Bethel (near Woodstock, N.Y.) for four days of rain, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Performers include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jefferson Airplane and Sly and the Family Stone.
- A Rolling Stones fan is killed at the group’s Altamont, California, concert by members of Hell’s Angels.
- The FCC bans all cigarette advertising on television and radio.
- Children’s Television Workshop introduces Sesame Street.
- The first-ever episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is broadcast on CBS: “What a Night for a Knight”.
- The Brady Bunch is broadcast for the first time on ABC.
- Monty Python’s Flying Circus first airs on BBC One.
- Grammys awarded in 1969
Record of the Year: “Mrs. Robinson,” Simon and Garfunkel
Album of the Year: By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Glen Campbell (Capitol)
Song of the Year: “Little Green Apples,” Bobby Russell, songwriter
- Jim Morrison is arrested in Florida for indecent exposure during a Doors-concert three days earlier.
- John Lennon and Yoko Ono are married at Gibraltar, and proceed to their honeymoon “Bed-In” for peace in Amsterdam.
- The movies Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch, and Easy Rider are released.
- Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five are first published.
- American novelist & poet Jack Kerouac dies of an abdominal hemorrhage.
- Brian Jones, musician and founder of The Rolling Stones, drowns in his swimming pool at his home in Sussex, England.
- Actor Boris Karloff dies of pneumonia at age 81.
- Chappaquiddick incident – Edward M. Kennedy drives off a bridge on his way home from a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign aide to his brother, dies in the early morning hours of July 19 in the submerged car.
- Followers of Charles Manson murder Sharon Tate, (who was 8 months pregnant), and her friends: Folgers coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring at the home of Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski, in Los Angeles. Also killed is Steven Parent, leaving from a visit to the Polanski’s caretaker. More than 100 stab wounds are found on the victims, except for Parent, who had been shot almost as soon as the Manson Family entered the property. The following day, the Manson Family kills Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, wealthy Los Angeles businesspeople.
- Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark are shot dead in their sleep during a raid by 14 Chicago police officers.
- Christy Turlington, American fashion model
- Marilyn Manson, American rock musician
- Jason Bateman, American actor, director and producer
- Dave Grohl, American rock drummer and composer (Nirvana, Foo Fighters)
- Roy Jones Jr., American boxer
- Jennifer Aniston, American actress, director, producer and businesswoman
- Birdman, American rapper, entertainer, and record producer
- Tiësto, Dutch trance DJ
- Bobby Brown, African-American singer
- Javier Bardem, Spanish actor
- Terrence Howard, American actor and singer
- Alexander McQueen, British fashion designer
- Paul Rudd, American actor, comedian, writer and producer
- Renée Zellweger, American actress and producer
- Wes Anderson, American director, producer, screenwriter and actor
- Cate Blanchett, Australian actress
- Peter Dinklage, American actor
- Ice Cube, African-American rapper and actor
- Ken Jeong, American actor, comedian and physician
- Jennifer Lopez, American actress and singer
- Elliott Smith, American musician
- Edward Norton, American actor
- Nate Dogg, African-American rapper
- Jack Black, American actor and musician
- Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey, American singer, one half of R&B duo K-Ci & JoJo
- Catherine Zeta-Jones, Welsh actress
- Zach Galifianakis, American actor and stand-up comedian
- Gwen Stefani, American singer and television host
- Trey Parker, American voice actor, comedian, screenwriter, composer, director and producer
- Sean Combs, African-American rapper (aka Puff Daddy, P. Diddy)
- Jay-Z, African-American rapper
- Julie Delpy, French actress
- …and last but not least, American actor and vintage Airstream owner, Matthew McConaughey