20 The Summer of '64

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

Print Post

In this blog, we will cover one of the two “big” events in Blawenburg in the summer of 1964, the encampment of the Wally Byam Caravan Club. In our next blog, we will cover the opening of the Dairy Queen that served the village ice cream and sweet memories for more than two decades.

A lot was happening in the world in 1964, and in the village of Blawenburg, it was a summer to remember.

· On July 2, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, ending the segregation practices known as Jim Crow that had been in place since the Civil War.

· Two destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin were struck by Vietnamese forces, escalating the war that cost the lives of over 50,000 Americans.

· Mariner IV sent back the first pictures of Mars.

· You could buy a car for $3,500 and only pay $.25 per gallon for gas.

· In New York, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time, was completed, connected Staten Island to Brooklyn.

· The World’s Fair came to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens.

Big Event North of Blawenburg

1964 also brought the 7th International Rally of the Wally Byam Caravan Club to property just north of Blawenburg on land once farmed by James Van Zandt. Montgomery High School is located on this property today. At the time, the land was owned by the State of New Jersey and was part of the Neuropsychiatric Institute, the former State Village for Epileptics. Governor Richard Hughes invited the club to hold its rally in Montgomery Township as part of the state’s tercentenary celebration. The club referred to the event as the Princeton Rally.

The club, which still exists today, is comprised of Airstream trailer owners and aficionados from around the world. It was created by its namesake, Wally Byam, who started the Airstream trailer factory in California in 1931, making trailers from aircraft aluminum. The Wally Byam Caravan Club members have a common love of travel and education. To join the club, all you needed was an Airstream trailer, some time to travel, and, of course, money to pay for your expenses.

The Wally Byam Caravan parade. While this picture, which was on the cover of Life magazine, is of another caravan, the arrival of the caravan in 1964 would have looked similar.

On June 22, 1964, gleaming aluminum trailers pulled into the large field off Belle Mead-Blawenburg Road (Route 601) and set up, almost overnight, what came to be called “Aluminum City.” Blawenburg hadn’t seen so much traffic since the Van Zandts had 8,000 people attend their Soil Conservation and Machinery Field Day in 1950. (See blog 11.) The Princeton Town Topics (June 24, 1964) described the memorable encampment. “Over the gentle hills and curves of the Great Road, just beyond the four corners of Blawenburg is a scene which few Princetonians may ever see again. And…will not forget.”