In the Spring of 1970 I was living in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. America was at the height of its space program and I wanted to be a part of it, even if only on a small scale. I started building model rockets, the first of which was the Estes 1/70th scale Saturn 1-B. However my first actual launch was of my second build, the Estes Orbital Transport. This launch occurred on 4 July 1970 from the baseball field at Bolitho Elementary School just behind my house on Pitkin Avenue.

 

Later, Rick Williams and I approached the local Boys Club about a venue to start the Glenwood Springs Model Rocketry Club (GSMRC). They were very supportive and the group was off and running, with our first meeting on Saturday, November 7 from noon until 2:00 pm. We then moved to Thursday evenings at 7:00 pm. Our launches took place at Strawberry Park (now Sayre Park) on the east side of Grand Avenue, and we had great success with the fun and excitement of vicariously participating in the ongoing Moon landing missions of Apollo, often holding special launch events to coincide with the latest mission (see Estes sticker below for Apollo 14).

 

Several others who were responsible for the success of the GSMRC were Bill Ould, our senior advisor, and Allen Bell, who started a model rocket shop in his basement to help supply us with needed kits, engines, and accessories. There are so many stories from both of these men, along with the exploits of the club itself, that I wish I could properly share. As a start, I hope you enjoy this page of cherished memories from those long ago days.

 

Special thanks to Rick Williams for sharing many of the photos on this page from his personal collection. If anyone from the GSMRC finds this page, I hope you'll contact me to share your memories.

The flag of the Glenwood Springs Model Rocketry Club.

This was sewn by the wife of Bill Ould and presented to me at the final launch of the GSMRC which I attended prior to moving to Santa Barbara following my junior year at Glenwood Springs High School, June 1971.

The Orbital Transport awaits my very first model rocket launch on 4 July 1970. There were a lot of people in the ball field that day, so I launched from the southeast corner of the field. No one paid any attention until they heard the whoosh of the launch, then everyone started running to try and catch the booster.

Instead of falling into the hands of onlookers, the wind carried the rocket near the telephone lines at the west end of the field where it draped perfectly across the wires, far out of reach of everyone—including myself!

With a lot of help and ingenuity I rigged up a set of sticks pieced together with cardboard tubes to get the requisite length to reach the rocket. I was eventually able to snag the parachute lines while standing on top of the team dugout next to the grandstands. The only casualty was the ripped parachute lines. The Orbital Transport went on to fly many more times.

Rick connects the battery to supply power for the launcher.

Another early launch, the Centuri 1/100th scale Saturn 1-B.

The second Orbital Transport launch, this time from the pitcher's mound.

Special sticker sent to rocketeers by Estes to commemorate the launch of Apollo 14. The GSMRC held our monthly launch on Sunday, 31 January 1971, to coincide with the Saturn V launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:03 pm EST. The black-and-white photos show what it looked like at the winter GSMRC launch. Much different in Glenwood than in balmy Florida.

Lots of snow covering the park while we celebrate the launch of Apollo 14.

The launches always got the interest of many onlookers from the nearby homes, and across Glenwood Springs.

A vapor trail is all that's left of one rocket that's just left the launch pad.

A report in the Glenwood Springs Sage-Reminder on 3 February, following our 31 January launch to commemorate Apollo 14, mentioned that a Cox Nike-Zeus rocket had missed a car by just two feet after its parachute failed to deploy. This sparked a fear of what might have happened if the rocket had struck the car.

 

In response, we set up a scientific test in which an Estes Alpha III rocket would be fired directly into the hood of an automobile. And instead of being at the end of the flight, our test would be at the maximum velocity of the rocket, right at the end of the main engine burn.

 

Bill had calculated the Nike-Zeus impact as happening at 167 mph with a force of 5 ounces. He went on to calculate that 1200 ounces of force would have been required to penetrate the car roof. For our test, the Alpha III hit the target at 180 mph and failed to do anything but leave a small dent.

 

The newspaper printed a story on 26 February which stated, "If you are worried about being run down by a speeding rocket, don't be; roll up your window and drive on."

Originally, we came across this dirt road at an angle, but then figured we didn't have enough distance, so we changed to run straight down the road instead.

Pacing off the track the rocket would take.

The angled piece of wood served to hold the launch line. The other end was set at the car hood being used as the target.

Bill's wife and I check out the setup.

The Alpha III is ready for ignition.

Moments after ignition, the Alpha III heads toward its destiny with the car hood.

The ultimate destination, slamming into the hood at maximum velocity. There was barely a dent. Speeding model rockets, even ones with hard plastic nose cones, were no danger to property or people.

A rocket's eye view of where it was headed for destruction.

The GSMRC prepared a "Moon Buggy" go-kart and created a large rocket for the bed of a flatbed truck for entry into the annual Strawberry Days Parade.

Bill Ould next to his giant rocket creation for the parade. Bill Goodyear stands on the float as a GSMRC Astronaut.

I have a last minute conversation with Rick in the Moon Buggy.

Bill climbs into the truck cab to begin the parade. The sign along the side of the bed reads: "The Glenwood Springs Model Rocketry Club. 1st on the Moon."

The "Moon Buggy" in action during the parade with our astronaut driver Rick Williams.

The GSMRC rocket float rolls down Grand Avenue. We took 2nd Place in the Clubs Division.

Meeting back at the Boys Club, Bill proudly holds the second place trophy for our parade float.

Our June 1971 launch with the new GSMRC flag flying proudly. Bill Ould is on the left.

Rick Williams sets up the launch pad electrical cabling while Bill is at the pads setting in the launch rods and blast deflectors . I'm working with some of the members preparing their rockets for launch, including Terry Bergman in the red hat.

The Omega two-stage rocket had a Cineroc movie camera in the nose which aimed back down along the body toward the ground. Here I am setting the Omega/Cineroc in place on Pad 12A.

The idea behind this special launch was to first fire the Omega, then moments later launch the Saturn V, seen on Pad 9 behind. The Cineroc would then hopefully film the Saturn V as it chased the Omega upward.

First stage ignition of the Omega. The Saturn V followed moments later just as planned. A fantastic in-flight film of the Saturn V powering upward was lost when the ejection charge in the Omega's 2nd stage D engine failed. The parachute never opened and the Cineroc movie camera and film were destroyed upon impact.

The GSMRC had excellent coverage from local area newspapers. Here are some photos which appeared in those papers.

On the left, I have just fired my Centuri Orion rocket during a winter launch.

On the right are some winners from our 3 April 1971 competition. Kneeling are Rick Williams and Allen Bell. Standing are Bill Goodyear, Vaughn Halford, and Veronica Baros.

Another news photo shows me setting up several rockets at our 3 April launch.

GSMRC went on the road with a display and launch at the Grand Junction Boys Club. The launch occurred at Lowell School with five successful missions. The idea of the event was to get a rocketry club started at this location.

Sticker from Centuri Rockets. As I neared the end of high school in 1973, I contacted Centuri Engineering and applied for a job in their communications department. I was amazed when they offered me a good position with the company in Phoenix, Arizona, directly from Centuri president Leroy Piester. In the end, I turned it down as I had my sites set on a career in the U.S. Air Force and attending college to get my degree.

Sticker from Estes Rockets. Both of these stickers are still attached to fishing tackle boxes I used to hold all of my rocketry supplies such as rocket engines, ignitors, parachute wading, spare shock cords, and other things of that nature. The rocket shown in the sticker is the Estes Interceptor.

Serving as Launch Control Officer, June 1971.

After leaving Glenwood Springs to move to Santa Barbara, California, Rick took over as the GSMRC president. He accomplished a lot of great things with the club and I was always disappointed I couldn't be there to participate any longer.

Rick shows off the GSMRC display during an Open House for the club.

Rick pulls the pin to light off a Vashon liquid-fuel model rocket during a hand-held demonstration at the GSMRC Open House. Steve Morris flinches a bit as the rocket he's holding ignites. On either side of Steve are Robbie Zanella and Terry Bergman.

Two photos of a Saturn V being prepared for launch by Allen Bell and other GSMRC members.

A day I truly wish I could have been back in Glenwood had Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert visit the GSMRC and discuss the work of the kids on model rocketry. Jack is in the center with Rick at the far right.

Jack signs the photo shown below.

Swigert signed this Saturn V launch photo of Apollo 13 to the members of the GSMRC.

"To the Glenwood Springs Model Rocket Club.

Your work will put you in one of these one day.

Best Wishes. Jack Swigert Apollo 13."