» The American Cultural Icon

The American Cultural Icon

Cultural Icon: An object that represents some aspect of the values, norms or ideals perceived to be inherent in a culture.

YR Airstream The 1978 Airstream Ambassador International damaged during Hurricane Sandy awaiting it’s next life as furniture and retail displays

Yesterday Reclaimed has creatively re-purposed such icons as 1950’s American-made pickup trucks and tractors.  And, the theme of my recent blogs has been the pleasant nostalgia they evoke.  Last week I paid homage to those perpetual icons; that is, those places and things which did not have to be rediscovered or resurrected, but have remained available and in use, unchanged for many, many years.

One such irrefutable, American cultural icon has recently come into the possession of Yesterday Reclaimed (…drum roll, please): A 1978, thirty-one-foot, Airstream Ambassador Travel Trailer!! Well, actually, only the rear section, as the forward section was irreparably flattened by a large tree uprooted in a recent storm.  Needless to say, this piece was viewed as a treasure find by the YR crew, and will soon be artistically salvaged and repurposed, then creatively displayed by Katy and Acie Shrewsbury in Harriet’s General at 117 E. Davis street in Downtown Culpeper, VA.  Do check it out!

YR HG Airstream A piece of Americana installed at Harriet’s General in downtown Culpeper, VA created by Yesterday Reclaimed

Airstream is the oldest manufacturer of luxury recreational vehicles in America.  Its distinctive silver sausage design dates back to the 1930s, and is based on designs created by Hawley Bowlus, who was the chief designer of Charles Lindbergh’s aircraft, The Spirit of St. Louis.

At least for the baby-boomer population in this country, the mere sight of an Airstream Trailer stimulates our American wanderlust; our frequently-impulsive desire for travel and adventure.  We smile and fondly recall Lucy and Ricky Ricardo pulling a 40-foot Airstream on their honeymoon.  We remember experiencing vicarious travel and adventure when we watched Todd Stiles and Buzz Murdock in their Corvette in the early 1960’s traveling Route 66 in the TV series of the same name.  With equal delight we watched “And then Came Bronson” about a young, idealistic man who abruptly eschewed his 9 to 5 career to travel the country on his Harley 900 Sportster. The memories of these wanderers and peaceful rebels invoke a portrait of 1960’s America as a less crowded, less complicated, less violent era, when altruism and optimism still had a place.

Cadillac Ranch Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, TX was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm

At the top of my post-retirement bucket list, is a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles on my vintage Harley Davidson following what still remains of the old Route 66.  One of the many maintained iconic attractions I will be visiting on the Mother Road is the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas.  Here, in 1974, a group of free-spirited artists created an artistic tribute to another American icon, the Cadillac.  They acquired 10 Caddies with model years from the 40’s to the 70’s, and half-buried them, nose-down with their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.  In the years since, these artifacts have been stripped of parts, and covered in day-glo splatter and spray-painted graffiti.  This painting is regarded less as vandalistic defacement and more as artistic enhancement, and the display remains a frequently and reverently visited destination for thousands of pilgrims year round.

Airstream Ranch Airstream Ranch, created by Frank Bates, along I-4 near Dover, FL

A similar artistic tribute to the topic of this blog was created earlier this century in Dover, Florida where several airstream trailers were planted in the Florida sod, and un-originally titled, The Airstream Ranch.  Not surprisingly, this display has become a very popular tourist attraction.  Unfortunately, however, just last week, the Dover Florida Code Enforcement Board ordered that the Airstream Ranch be disassembled for flagrant, irreconcilable county code violations.  Rumor has it that the YESTERDAY RECLAIMED crew is already in route to Dover Florida on yet another treasure hunt.

Fondly submitted,

Marty Carroll

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