Did a young Scott Smith ever fire rockets towards space in those days?
Indeed I did.
About this time my Grandfather in Colorado had heard of the Estes model rocketry company which made model rocket engines and sold some model rocket kits from the Denver area. The company was founded by Vernon Estes in 1958, the same year that NASA was founded, and the Estes Industries factory is near Colorado Springs just south of Pike's Peak.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estes_Industries
Anyway, the Estes company distributed literature about how their tailor-made rocket motors were safe ─ unlike the homemade rocket engines that were basically homemade "basement bombs" that were very dangerous.
My Grandfather was somewhat sensitive to this argument about safety because as a boy in the 1920s he and his friends tried to make a gun out of a pipe and some black powder.
The explosion did not end well and he got facial burns and corneal scars and had to submit to an operation by some country doctor to debride scar tissue to save his eyesight.
So much later, when I was a kid, my Grandfather had his own homemade laboratory that he mixed chemicals and acids and had a homebrew furnace that he could do his own mining assays with. I was fascinated by the chemistry set but he never allowed me to do anything with it. One trick that he did, which was intended to amuse kids, was to take some cinnabar (red mercury ore) and do some things with a Bunsen burner and a copper penny, and then turn the penny bright silver with a mercury coating. The problem with this cool trick is that kids were not allowed to keep the pennies after the demonstration since mercury is poisonous.
When he died in 1974, I acquired his old Geiger counter and had a lot of fun with it. I earned the rocketry, electronics, and the atomic energy merit badges in the Boy Scouts.
Another hobby model rocket company was Cox, the rival of Estes, and I understand that they merged with Estes at some point. I remember taking a red wagon with my friends to the school yard on many frosty days with an old car battery in tow to electrically ignite the rocket motor for the launch. I think I had the Alpha III, which was easy to use and seldom disappointed. I wanted to get a Saturn V model rocket but that was a little more pricey.
In High School I took physics and chemistry, and had been in various model rocketry clubs in Junior High School and so on. But everybody thought the Estes rockets were boring, and we were encouraged to build our own motors and had the run of the school chemistry lab and the chemicals. However, we did not know what we were doing, and I don't recall that any of our homemade rocket motors ever worked. In fact, I think they all exploded impressively.
That Science teacher, a young lady named Sherry Davis drowned with her boyfriend near the end of the school year while rafting on the Snake River in 1976. Their decomposed bodies were finally found after the Teton Dam break that Summer. No other teacher gave us the run of the Science department, so the next year I went into the Electronics vocational shop course instead, where we mostly repaired television sets, thinking that was actually a career choice.
One dumb thing that I did in the Science class was lay an asbestos sheet onto a lab table and burn it with a blow torch. I got the asbestos red hot and of course it did not burn, but it did not insulate the table either. The red hot mineral burned a nasty gash into the table. Oops. In my defense, the teacher thought it would be safe too. That was the only time I know of when Miss Davis got into any trouble for giving us "smart" kids the run of the chemistry lab.
In my new electronics class, the teacher, Mr. Grange was very laid back too ─ but there was less mischief that we could get into there. He had been in the Air Force for thirty years and had lived in all kinds of countries like China, Germany, and Iceland. People donated junk TV sets that no longer worked to the school, and we were then allowed to take them home if we could do the necessary repairs in class. We also did electronic projects that involved things like building time delays for bomb construction ─ er, I mean for launching model rockets, LOL.
We went on many vocational technology field trips to places like Boise where we competed in contests to build electronics projects at Boise State University, and toured various big industrial shops like Morrison-Knudsen, which built railroad rolling stock and dams, and Hewlett Packard, which you have probably heard of. The High School cut the budget or something and eliminated Electronics, so Mr. Grange was forced to teach Woodshop and Metalshop instead. I had already taken those courses so in my Senior year I was forced to take World History from Mr. Bateman, a tall red-headed guy who had been elected to the Idaho State legislature.
Mr. Bateman collected old recordings of Third Reich marching music and had been on an LDS Church mission to Germany in the 1960s, and a lot of elderly Germans had given him things that they no longer wanted to keep, like Mother's medals and an Iron Cross and some other things like that. He had a P08 Luger and a K98 Mauser and a Wehrmacht officer's cap and a Stahlhelm. With his political connections, Mr. Bateman would bring in all kinds of politicians from around the state to talk to us about political issues of the day. He also brought in many octogenarian veterans from World War I, and sometimes they wore their old uniforms. (Like I could wear a uniform that I wore when I was 19 and had a 30 inch waist, LOL.) There were quite a lot of WWI veterans still alive in the 1970s, and the WWII veterans then were a lot younger than I am now, LOL. I wish that I had talked to more of them and recorded their thoughts when they were still around.
About this time when I worked in the kitchen of the hospital, there was an old veteran in the geriatric wing who endlessly wrote letters to the editor complaining about how bad Kaiser Bill was. Sixty years after the Armistice, and the old nursing home guy still believed the wartime Greuelpropaganda.
Btw, the day the aforementioned Teton Dam
break was on a Saturday, the 5th of June, 1976 and I was in the Civil Air Patrol then and was supposed to take a flying lesson at the Idaho Falls "Red Baron" airport. But when we got there, around 11 am or so, the place immediately went into a lockdown as the news went out that the dam had broken and a wall of water had come down the Teton River and was headed down the Snake River in our path. That started quite a civil defense adventure for the next few weeks with Huey helicopters everywhere and the place looking like a war zone. I helped sand-bag at the city powerplant with my Dad, uncles and cousins. Because the dam collapse occurred in the middle of the day, the loss of life was only 11 persons. All was back to "normal" by July 4th, 1976 when I marched in the Independence Day parade in my cadet uniform for the Bicentennial.
The Civil Air Patrol was pretty cool. We never got to search and rescue any lost aircraft, but we did get to ride an Air Force C-130 from Idaho to Texas to visit the NASA space center in Houston. The Apollo-Moon program was over with by then but they were still doing other projects like Apollo-Soyuz and Skylab, so the Mission Control was in pristine condition and still in use. I thought Mission Control looked very strange, very small compared to what you saw on TV during the "Moonshots," as we called them then. I now realize that there is a Mission Control in Florida that was quite spacious ─ but after the launch of the rockets they transfer control to Houston in a more intimate setting. Houston was not quite the Diversity shithole in the 1970s that it is today.
President Nixon cancelled the SST program (a supersonic transport) that would rival the Concorde, and this was the precursor to a nationwide recession as the debts from the Vietnam War were coming due. Our family had to move about every year or two because government aerospace contracts never lasted longer than that in good times. I started school in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1966 because my Dad's job was to analyze data from nuclear explosions in the Nevada desert ─ and it was a very different place in the 1960s than it is today. The Mojave desert was hot in the Summer but it was a dry heat with little humidity; it cooled off at night, and most of the year the climate was fabulous. I remember my Dad taking us to air shows at nearby Nellis Air Force Base and seeing the Thunderbirds fly and visiting the Hoover Dam. After school I watched the kid's show Lost in Space
on TV ─ with the befuddled and mischievous Doctor Smith and the Robot and the "Space Family Robinson."
I watched the Moon Landing live on TV on July 20th, 1969 in Tucson, Arizona and everybody was incredibly excited. This is what my Dad and my oldest Uncle and everyone they worked with in Aerospace had worked for. My best friend had lost his Dad flying an F-4 jet, and mine had to pitch in by proxy to repair flat tires on his bike. I was lucky to have an intact family and that is very important.
I am not sure if I ever expected the "World of Tomorrow" at Disneyland exactly, but I can tell you that my vision of the future in those days was a very different place than the exotically banal outcome.
By 1971, my Dad's aerospace friends were talking about giving up the rat race and opening up a 1950s style gas station. That sentiment was a bit misplaced because by 1973 the Arab oil embargo hit and the full service stations mostly folded. Still in grade school, I was already reading literature about economic collapse and how to get out of it. Not all "Baby Boomers" have been blind to these social problems that were bound to happen unless things got put back on track by some enlightened leaders. Knowing that things are on the ropes is a very different issue, however, than being able to do something about it.
In 1974, when we were living in Idaho we heard news that a couple of melanin-enriched Airmen from the Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah that my Dad had worked at for the SST program three years previously had gruesomely tortured, murdered and raped some kids at the Hi-Fi Shop. My youngest Uncle had gone to High School there and actually knew the girl.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hi-Fi_murders
Maybe I'm like the old guy in the rest home who was still fighting Kaiser Bill, or chasing windmills like Don Quixote, but this is a "brave new world" where some of my Normie colleagues have "transgender" kids ─ a universe that my Grandparents could barely have imagined when "the free world saved Europe from the Natzees."
In any case, I am still waiting for my B9 robot and the flying cars.