Estes Nostalgia, Elementary School Heroes

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Well-Known Member
Apr 22, 2009
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Just thought I'd share a page out of my 1990-1991 yearbook (elementary school, 7th grade). That was the year I discovered rocketry. All I could do is eat, sleep, and talk rocketry and every opportunity we had to fly rockets we were doing just that including carefully selecting motors for kits we didn't want to lose on my friend's farm. My original 1990 catalog is worn from being carried in my bookbag when we'd thumb through it and dream about our next kit acquisition and builds. Anyhow, that same year our Science teacher (also the yearbook editor) brought us a newspaper clipping advertisement the University of South Florida College of Engineering promoting an open invitational to a rocketry contest. The contest had 2 spot landing categories: Sport and Eggloft. All of those launches on my friend's small farm paid off. My best friend Tim and I took 3 of the 6 trophies home that day. He placed 1st in Sport with his Nova Payloader, I placed 3rd in Sport with my Skinny Mini, and 1st in Eggloft with the Eggspress. We had an interview by the local paper at the field and many of the veteran flyers were impressed that 2 11-year old kids took half of the awards. We couldn't wait until that Monday to share our wins with our teachers and classmates. Our Science teacher was so proud of us that we got a special announcement at school and our very own yearbook feature and the local "rocket boys" were instant heroes at school. What I most recall from that day at USF was witnessing AP rockets launch for the first time! That same week, my dad took me to a local hobby shop to celebrate. I bought a LOC Graduator ($40) and he bought me a G40-7W. I never did get to fly that Graduator until the early 2000's.

I don't ever get tired of telling stories of these memories and I really enjoy reliving my youth with these kits. What a great hobby.

Rockets pictured:

  1. Athena (Still own)
  2. Alpha (Lost - but I have one in the build pile)
  3. DER V-3 (Still own)
  4. Eggspress (Still own)
  5. Helio-Copter (The one pictured was a friend's, but I had one as well and still own)
  6. Nova Payloader (Owned by my friend Tim. I have a kit in the build pile.)
  7. Sentinel (Owned by my friend Tim. He later passed it down to his nephews. I have parts to clone one.)
  8. Skinny Mini (Donated to a high school kid when I left for the Air Force. I have a clone almost completed on my desk)
Anyone want to guess what my focus for rocket building in 2022 is? Building/cloning/collecting rockets from the 1990 catalog. :) That's the closest to "feeling complete" I think I'll ever get with this hobby. Not a L3 build, not finding some newfangled way to fly rockets, not scale builds....having all the rockets in that 1990 catalog that kept my up late at night and doing more chores and never enough money.


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This is great! Keep building those classics and take us along for the ride.

The Skinny Mini I built about the same time you did, never flew. Got bent after I entered it in the county fair and wasn't repaired and likely got tossed sometime while I was in college. Hmmm....
This is great! Keep building those classics and take us along for the ride.

The Skinny Mini I built about the same time you did, never flew. Got bent after I entered it in the county fair and wasn't repaired and likely got tossed sometime while I was in college. Hmmm....
Funny backstory about the rocket contest invitational and why I'd eventually choose the Skinni Mini for the spot landing contest...(spoiler - it was the cheapest kit I owned!)

My dad used to work in retail (Thom McCann shoes) and I'd hang out in the mall every once in a while with him while he worked. My favorite 3 places in the mall were: arcade, food/eateries, and KB Toys. I remember the day in great detail when I bought the Skinny Mini. I had walked into the KB Toys and they had placed the remainder of their rockets on clearance. I wasn't sure if they were liquidating or just placing things on sale for new inventory, but I had 12.00 in my pocket to spend and bye golly I could afford something. They had a Jupiter C for 9.00, Skinny Mini for 2.99 (originally 4.19), and a DER V-3 for about 5.00. I recall picking up the Jupiter C and holding it with awe as it was the first time I had seen a scale NASA rocket in person, but there I was struggling to pass up on a rocket that appeared in the 1990 catalog (Skinny Mini) and potentially my first BIG 2.6" D-powered rocket that wasn't in the 1990 catalog - the DER V-3. Of course, I saw the Estes logo on all the packages and decided I'd get 2 rockets instead of one. Back went the Jupiter C on the rack in the hopes I'd pick it up some other time. (Nope. Never did. LOL.)

Anyhow, on the day of the rocket contest there were heavy winds. During the contest they even held rockets at times to let the winds die down some, so I selected the cheapest kit in the fleet, mini-engine powered, with a streamer. That move paid off. Many other rockets floated away under their parachutes with the breeze. My buddy flew his Nova Payloader and swapped the parachute for a streamer. Contest rules dictated the rockets had to land under a recovery device undamaged - same with the eggloft contest - no broken eggs or rockets.

He and I had a drag racing rivalry during those years. I had a Yankee and he had the Wizard. On his parents small 25 acre property (with more than half wooded) we'd test the limits of the field. Losing a rocket at that age was simply devastating, but the practice set us up to win big at the contest.

Amazing how simple spirals of paper, spritzes of paint, and some waterslide decals create these rich memories! My clone is almost complete. The 2 wraps that cover the paint transitions were scaled too large so I have to reprint those.


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While I can't say rocket memories are the best, they are amongst the top five. or six, maybe seven. Okay, twelve. Rocket memories are amongst the top twelve memories. If you don't count dogs. Okay, top thirteen memories.
While I can't say rocket memories are the best, they are amongst the top five. or six, maybe seven. Okay, twelve. Rocket memories are amongst the top twelve memories. If you don't count dogs. Okay, top thirteen memories.

Nostalgia and memories are kinda 2 separate spaces in my brain. I rank them separately and I think the difference is the replay value as an adult. As an example, one of my fondest memories from my youth was spending a day at the beach with my high school sweetheart (whom I later married!). We had limited cash on hand so we ended up ordering a carry-out pizza from a nice Italian restaurant and sat on the hood of my car in the parking lot while we devoured every last slice and dreamed about a future together. Something about that day made the memory unique and special. We still talk about that day on occasion but it's never occurred to us to eat pizza on the hood one of our cars again. :)

Rocketry, however, brings me back to some "glory days" and just unearths a "feeling" consistent with joy I felt during that period of my life. Nostaliga seems to have something about it that makes it replayable as an adult or at least allows us to experience joy by just taking a peek backwards. Model railroading does the same for me as rocketry much like some other kids might talk about going to the ball park to watch a baseball game perhaps reliving their glory days spent with their dads, grandpas, brothers, uncles, etc. Another one is firing up the old Nintendo Entertainment System and playing Mario Bros or Tetris for a few minutes. Again, playing the NES has no specific memory trigger but lets me escape and temporarily relive some really great times from my youth.

I will say the memory I shared via this post of winning that rocketry contest is up there in terms of "top 25 childhood memories", but I can't claim it to be one of the most significant in life as compared to eating pizza on the hood of my car with my girlfriend back in high school. :) I'm a dog guy too and have some incredible memories that if I thought about them long enough my eyes would water up!

In all, rocketry is fun. Plain and simple. I wish more people could share in the experience like many of us rocketeers do. Some people either "get stoked" and pursue it further or don't and that's true of other things - riding bikes, tossing a football, tending to a BBQ grill, camping, etc.
I have been known to enjoy other people's memories, yours most latest! I feel my feeble attempt at humour may have been a bit mislaid. I courted (and won) the hand of the fair Viking Princess on the hood of my '72 Dodge Challenger, watching the star fields and bunny rabbiits. We too recount those days occassionally and even after 45 years find our own sense of humour and mortality in it. I like your division of nostalgia and memories. Things just trigger events I can recall from decades ago. I do count myself lucky, like you, to have rocketry as one of those triggers. (Ha! Remember The Lone Ranger? See how that works? Lol!) Thanks for sharing, that must have been a rush for an 11 year old!
For the record, every dog I've had took a piece of my heart with them to heaven. That's the only way I'll ever get in!
Straight smoke and good chutes!
"the fair Viking Princess" - LOL! I love the special name! Dang, '72 Challenger. You wouldn't have one of those hanging around still would ya? I might have cought the tail end of the Lone Ranger series. I was more influenced by Knight Rider, Air Wolf, and MacGuyver as a child of the 80's. Westerns and the idea of conquering/settling new frontiers fascinates me.

I picked up the hobby in '90, but much like you I have "retro nostalgia". I can easily place myself in the Apollo era and I very much enjoy seeing others post those grainy photos of their rocketry youth era just a touch earlier than mine. The Space Shuttle program was my "fire" for the hobby. One year I even got a telescope for Christmas which was a HUGE stretch on my family's budget! I can empathize and appreciate all of those that were inspired and enjoyed the hobby due to the space race, Star Wars (think 1978 Estes catalog cover!), scale military models (WW2/Vietnam), Battlestar Galactica, etc. I sure hope the latest ULA/SpaceX/Blue Origin/Rocket Lab/etc space race is insipiring kids to put down their cell phones and play with rockets!

As an 11 year old, winning those contests WAS a HUGE rush! I still enjoy the thought! :)
I loved it so much, I got to help build real Atlas/centaurs and the Shuttles. Retired from that gig after the Enterprise was born and before ULA was a thing. Yep, got stories! Best pic on the internet is the one of Earth from under the rings of Saturn. Look for the one you can see the moon in.