Ralston Rocket

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The following comments from the Bulletin Board and email to the Academy are typical of the comments I have heard over the years. What happened to the Ralston Rocket? Maybe we can find some answers through the site. Any comments or ANSWERS can be forwarded to the Academy for insertion here.
Cadet Ed

From Cadet Tom Williams
22 Dec 2001
I visited the Ralston Rocket when it came through a shopping center (we didn't have malls then) in Wilmington, Delaware sometime in the early 1950s--before 1954, when we moved away. Two big impressions I have is that there was a case with a glass top containing two or more ray guns and a closet where one or two space suits were hanging. Some guy in Space Patrol garb was sitting in one of the cockpit seats when my mother and I toured through. Hope that may be of interest to someone.

From Cadet Robert Rinehart
30 May 2000
The rocket I remember touring appeared to be more like the fuselage of a DC-3 (C-47). It was in front of the Stevens Park Safeway, in about 1955. Admission ticket was a Ralston cereal boxtop.

We lived in the Mustang Village housing project at the time and could not afford to buy cereals just to get in to see the "space ship". I was about 10, at the time (now 57) and was such a pitiful looking little waif, I guess, that the attendant allowed me in for "free" after checking to see that no one noticed, of course. Because of his kindness, over the years I have purchased a lot of Chex cereals, which I have never learned to like.

Do any of your links provide information/photos of this version of "The" rocket?

Could this be a ship similar to what Cadet Joe Sidore saw in his visit described on the Anniversary page " I WAS ON THE SPACE PATROL TELEVISION LOT-http://www.solarguard.com/spannver3.htm ? The idea of a "modular" ship that could be assembled for display inside of a building is very interesting. Anyone have any memories or pictures??? Thanks Robert, I can say I do like the Rice Chex cereals, but it took a lifetime of diets and desperation to come to that point :-) Cadet Ed

From Cadet Art Goette
May 12 ,2000

Was on board the rocket in St. Louis, MO. Remember the aircraft like controls and the map of Terra City under a plastic cover also. May be wrong after all these years but somehow I remember that there were actually two rockets, the winner of the contest got a rocket just like the one that toured or possibly the contest was such a success that they had another. Can't recall exactly.

There was a Kraft Marshmallow's naming contest that used a rocket giveaway. Thanks to Bob Burns for a picture of the contest - see comments below. There were other companies that jumped on the bandwagon with similar types of touring "rockets". The Oscar Meyer traveling hotdog is still seen today. Not a rocket but the same idea of promotion. Maybe there was another "touring rocket" that was a promotional set used for inside displays. Cadet Ed

From Cadet Ray
March 22, 2000

I am using your great screen saver--to the mystification of younger folk: "who'er they?" I was interested in the photo of Carol and Tonga sitting on the fin of what is evidently the touring rocket.

The Ricky Walker (Gent) Rocket was a three-fin model, with the fins spaced 120 degrees--sitting on the fin would not have been possible.

Another difference between the two rockets is evident in the pictures of Ward Dean with the Gent rocket in 1979: The Gent rocket has a straight top fin, while the touring rocket has a curved fin (which is indeed how I remember it) evidently an attempt to give "swish" to what probably started out as a big propane tank trailer.

Thanks Ray for your observations. The fins play an important part in all of the rockets,including allowing Carol and Tonga to sit on the fin!! Cadet Jack McKirgan has worked to identify many of the early Space Patrol rockets based on style and design with fins playing an important identification element. We hope to see his work soon. Cadet Ed

From Cadet Ray:
Feb 18, 2000

In Rick DeMeis' article about the rocket in Gent, New York, he asks if anyone ever saw a Ralston Rocket on tour. I did (two Wheat Chex or Rice Chex box tops, please) and offer the following recollections.

The rocket I saw in a grocery store parking lot in Albany, California had, the best I can recall after all these years, the following features:

  1. A (metal, I think) control panel with all aircraft type instruments and an aircraft type twin wheel control yoke.
  2. The big bulbous front ports were more streamlined than the Gent rocket. I would bet that they were waist windows taken from a PBY Catalina flying boat, as they had the same kind of observation grid lines etched in them and were about the right shape.
  3. There was a map of Terra City under a clear plastic cover, with little moving cars, etc. I don't now remember now if it was a "built in".
  4. Built into the cabin sides, between the smaller ports, were inlet shadow boxy kind of things with fantastically shaped neon tubes in various colors.
  5. The rocket tubes were not visible from inside; the cabin ended with an access panel. The large central rocket tube had a speaker in it which emitted a roaring "rocket" noise.
  6. I am less certain about this, but seems to me that the rocket I saw was mounted on a standard or only slightly modified flatbed trailer, rather than having custom underpinnings like the Gent rocket.
I would enjoy reading about any other elderly Space Cadet's memories of the rocket on tour,

Cadet Ray
DeKalb, IL

Thanks Ray for the insight. Any other cadets remember seeing the Rocket in person? A more important question, anyone have pictures of the Rocket on Tour from the 1950s? Ray noted some differences between the Gent Rocket and the Touring Rocket which adds to the evidence that there were two rockets.
Cadet Ed

From Jeff Brody:
Jan 4, 2000

While I do not have any personal knowledge of the rocket, I dug an old book out of my attic because it had information about the rocket. Perhaps someone else has already given you this information. The book is from 1981 and is called Saturday Morning TV. According to the author, Gary H. Grossman, the Terra was thirty five feet long and cost $30,000. Grossman went on to say that Walker's parents sold the rocket a few years later to a traveling carnival for $1000. In 1980 it was owned by Harry and Eleanor Nolin of Quincy, Illinois who used it as a mobile NASA museum. This information came from page 235 of the book.

Thanks Jeff for jogging my memory. Yes, Saturday Morning TV is a very good resource. Saturday Morning TV also provided the winning name for Planet X - CESARIA!!!
Saturday Morning TV also provides information on a number of other Space Opera shows of the 1950's. If you can get a copy of the book, do so, it's an excellent resource.
Cadet Ed

From: Dale Ames
Oct 20,1999 - Reprinted from the October 1999 Galaxy Patrol Newsletter

To help with the mystery of the Space Patrol Fleet of missing space ships I have written this article in hopes it helps. I don't believe anyone is sure if there was 1 or 2 Terra 5 space ships built. As noted on the Solar Guard web site, data that the traveling Terra 5 was seen in different cities on the same date indicate there may have been more than one Terra 5. We do know that the Terra 5 and The Ricky Walker space ships were identical except for a five foot different in length.

Following a lead in the summer of 1985 that a small construction company had the Ricky Walker space ship on the lawn in front of the company, I drove to Gent NY to check this out. Yes the space ship was on the lawn but was a empty rusted space ship which I and my daughter Helen took pictures of and even went inside.

This space ship was owned by a movie producer in NY who for several years had plans to fix it up and use it in a Sci Fi movie which he never did. The ship was sitting outside continuing to rust away. I had the feeling of finding an old friend who needed help and I couldn't do anything. I found it very hard to drive home and leave this treasure behind. For the same indescribable,reason we can not let go of memories of the TV show Space Patrol (Tom Corbett ,Lone Ranger etc) I had that feeling that day.

A few months after my visit a construction worker had entered the space ship and his foot went through a rusted out hull and so for safety the company had the ship destroyed. After all these years of searching we loose a wonderful treasure. If only they had been aware of the history.

The sad part is that Andy Anderson and James Buchanan had been trying to purchase the spaceship for a long period of time but the movie producer wouldn't return any of their phone calls. Jim and Andy had plans to refurbish the space ship to its Grand Original Shape.

I have tried to contact Ricky Walker but no luck.

I have the last picture taken of the Ricky Walker space ship which I will forward to Ed Pippin so he may add it to his web site. If you wish copies mail me $3 to cover cost. These pictures were taken in 1985. ( See Pictures on the Gent NY Page )

When you match these to the space ship with Ward Dean you will see that they look like the same space ship. Ward's pictures were taken Oct 1979 in Quincy, Illinois.

From: Bob Burns via Mike Elmo Sept 5, 1999

Hi Folks,
I think I can answer the question about the mystery rocket that Mike Elmo was talking about. I'm sending you an ad I have from an old comic page that I have. The type is small I hope it can be read. It is the rocket in the photo. It is not the Space \ Patrol rocket. It was a Kraft Marshmallow's naming contest. It was a near rip off of the Ralston rocket.

The date was October 1959. Can you forward this ad to Mike so he can put it on his site? As far as I know there were 2 rockets made for Ralston. One that toured the grocery stores across the country. I was in that one. My Dad worked at a market where they brought the rocket. I got friendly with the guys travelling with it and they let me in after hours when the crowd was gone. I had the whole ship to my self. It was really neat. The cockpit had a rear projection system, just like the Kraft ship.

The one that went in the Ralston contest was a bit different in the interior. It had bunk like beds and locker type storage areas.

Talk to you soon,
Cadet Bob (Burns)
Visit http://www.mycottage.com or email webmaster@mycottage.com...

Cadet Ed Pippin here. Many thanks Bob for your insight and to Mike Elmo for sharing the information. For those who want to see the ad click on the link below. It is interesting to see how the promotional minds of the 1950's work. Much like the Marx Toy People. If you had a good idea.. repeat it again and again. With The Marx Toys it was the playsets and space guns, with the Advertising men it was the "touring rocket".

Picture of the Kraft Rocket

From: Rory Coker 23 Aug 1999

Reading some of the later comments on the Ralston Rocket probably caused an old memory to pop into my mind as I woke up this morning. About 10 to 15 years ago, I was driving down a heavily-commercially-developed interstate-like divided highway on the way to a doctor's office, when I saw a new strip shopping center having a grand opening. It was anchored at one end by a large grocery store. In the huge parking lot of the grocery store was a silvery, truck-bed-mounted rocket ship, with a banner inviting closer inspection. This was here, in Austin, Texas.

AT that time, I knew about the Ralston Rocket, but had never seen a photo of it. I had heard that the Ralston Rocket had been sold to a salvage yard and scrapped. So it never entered my mind that this could have been the Ralston Rocket, in some later incarnation. I couldn't stop, because I was going to an appointment.

Rushing back from the appointment, I was on the far side of the divided highway and couldn't see the rocket well. When I thought of it later, and had a chance to drive out that way again, several days had gone by. I did drive out, but there was no rocket any longer.

In the last 5 years I've seen several good photos of the Ralston Rocket. All I can say is that the rocket I got a glance at roughly a decade ago in the shopping center was about the same size and shape. It was unpainted, riveted silvery metal, with airliner-like stairs going up to a hatch that opened upward. On the truck bed, it was tilted up at about a 20 degree angle, which I thought odd at the time.

Now, I am pretty sure that there were two Ralston Rockets. And I strongly suspect that the company which built the one given to Ricky Walker for Ralston built not just the one more, but, perhaps a couple more, which were somewhat different in style, but about the same size and shape, precisely for the purpose of Grand Opening ballyhoo, and that they were sold as such. And I suspect that other companies built somewhat similar rockets over the years from 1955 - 1965, again for Grand-Opening ballyhoo.

Whatever is the case, I would enjoy getting a close up view of ANY of these display rockets! Has anyone seen anything like this lately?

Addendum: one of these touring rockets, rather crude compared to the Ralston Rocket, but about the same size, is shown in a photo on p. 103 of the great book IN ADVANCE OF THE LANDING: FOLK CONCEPTS OF OUTER SPACE, by Douglas Curran (Abbeville Press, 1985). Correcting some errors in the caption, the info that "the 40 foot rocket was built for Republic Pictures' TOBOR THE GREAT, then sold in 1954 to Blakely Oil Company. During its stint with Blakely, the rocket was carted from gas station to gas station, where it would entertain an audience of 24, seated inside, with a 16 mm projected film depicting space flight, while the rocket vibrated along. In 1965, the rocket was bought by a meat-packing company, and then in 1970 by Ray Welch, who intended to refurbish it for a proposed amusement park, but by 1985 had not done so."

I would suspect the histories of the Ralston Rockets is even more complex than this!
Rory Coker

From Dick Dyszel, August 1999
I met Cadets Chuck and Mike at Monster Rally '99 and after much conversation about both Space Patrol and Rocky Jones, decided to muddy the water a bit concerning the Ralston Rocket. I specifically remember the Ralston Rocket touring Chicago in the early 50's. I really wanted to win it! However, several years later either the same rocket or one very similar was in a Chicago neighborhood parade, but this time it had Rocky Jones' picture on it and the sponsor was Silvercup bread. After looking at the photos on the website, I'm not sure it was the same rocket. I have a short movie clip of the ship in question and will try and find and post it.
Dick Dyszel
(AKA Gore De Vol)

Bulletin Board Posting from Walt Pattinson January 27, 1999
The winner of the "Name Planet X" contest won a replica of the Terra 5. Any idea what happened to the ship? Has he been interviewed lately about his memories of that time? And how about the official Ralston ship used for personal appearances?

From Mack Rhea - Space Forum Jan 28, 1998
There were some musings in the August forum regarding the current locationof the Ralston Rocket, won by Ricky Walker on Space Patrol. Awhile back I ran into a letter at OTR Online from Bob Jennings (alabok@fabficb2.iii.net) with the following information:

"Within a few months after receiving the prize he (Ricky Walker)sold it off to a touring carnival where it became a minor attraction on their tours of themid-western circuit for years. The rocket dropped out of sight for quite awhile and nobody seemed to know what happened to it. Starlog Magazinelaunched a nationwide search in the early eighties to locate the ship ordiscover what became of it. Two dedicated Space Patrol collectors, one ofthem Andy Anderson, finally located Ricky's prize ship in the front of aconstruction company in Gent, New York, where it was a sort of advertisingprop, and in really poor condition. Efforts on the part of Andy and someother fans to raise money to save the ship and return it to California werenot successful. Somebody from the construction company put his foot thruthe wall of the ship and it was decided the ship was in such poor conditionthe it constituted a safety hazard, and without further ado theconstruction company sold it for scrap salvage. And that was the end of that."

However, "there were actually two of those rockets"used "as a promotionalgimmick for the Ralston cereal division or R-P." "Nobody knows what happenedto the other ship, the so-called Ralston Rocket, the one used in thepublicity tours across the country. It vanished without a trace, and everyeffort to get information from the Ralston Purina company has been metwith silence and indifference. Fans say there was a five foot difference inlength between the Ralston Rocket and the Ricky Walker rocket, altho whichwas longer I can't say. My guess is that the Walker rocket was longer toaccommodate the bunk room sleeping area at the back of the ship advertisedin the contest."

(Editors note: Would this second ship be the ship that Dr. WARD DEAN acquired? The Academy has written Ward at his last known address but we have not received a reply yet. I guess we will have to wait until Ward responses. Cadet Ed )

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