Were you an Estes guy, or a Centuri guy?

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.....OpenRocket's ..... "Chuck Norris"
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Mar 27, 2013
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Perhaps you remember George Clooney's role in O Brother Where Art Thou? Where he vehemently rejects the Storekeeper's offer of Fop... "...Dammit! I'm a Dapper Dan Man!"

When I got started in Rocketry, Centuri was still present in Medford, Oregon's Hobby Tree hobby shop, located in the basement of Hubbard's Ace Hardware. I didn't frequent Al's Hobby Shop much (I didn't get along with Bob, and IIRC, the prices were higher). Still, I had seen rockets hanging on the racks for years there before (I got my start as a plastic aircraft model builder), but didn't have the serious interest in rocketry until my freshman year of high school.

Still, I felt more attracted to Estes kits than the odd kits I saw from Centuri. I felt this way when I'd see Centuri kits here and there for years. I honestly thought that the companies were separate, and competitive with each other, and I wasn't surprised when Estes "won" and Centuri went out of production. My discovery that the two companies were actually one by the time I got into the hobby didn't occur until... 2013.

Still some of the kits were weird, but I'm surprised how many of the kits I do like that I thought were Estes originals, until I see the older Centuri catalogs.

So, did any of you have similar feelings towards Estes and Centuri.

Oh, and for the record, I was completely unaware of any other manufacturers up until Aerotech came out.
Centuri, mainly because I didn't know about Estes at least for a while. When I look at the '66 vintage catalog I drool. Just can't help it.

For me when I was young, the Estes 1991 catalog was the pinnacle of model rocketry.
Both- wasn't much choice back in the day. By the time you got tired of whoosh-pop with the same body tube and nose cone but a dozen different fins and names-you went for the Sci-Fi, gliders, scale and two stagers. Each offered their own diversions. At one time I had all the catalogues from all the companies extant in the 60's but my Dad sold the camping trailer I had them stored in. He wasn't aware, but it broke my heart nevertheless.
Just me... but I could care less.

I launched rockets in 1970 to 1972...
Rode my bike to Herman's hobby shop on Dewey Ave.

Bought stuff. Then rode my bike with Mike Axon to the Long Ridge High School's field off Mount Read Blvd in Greece NY and dreamed rocket dreams. I could not have cared less if it was Estes, Centuri, or FSI. All of which I used. Goodness gracious I still remember that F100... I never saw it again.
I dabbled in both, but the local hobby/sporting goods(strange combo?) store carried lots of Estes stuff. I still have my Century SST Shuttle I built when I was in jr high (thanks dad for saving it and my Big Bertha). I always drooled about getting the Mars Lander and the Saturn Rockets. Never did get those as a kid. I did get the Maxi Brute V2 and flew that thing to pieces on D12-3's. It would barely clear the cottonwood tree in the front yard where I flew. Who had the jet fighter series? I had one or two of those. I never knew there were any companies other than those two until I became a BAR in the late '90's.
I got started in rocketry in 1976 and the only hobby store that carried rockets had only Estes. I wore the catalog out until I finally bought a couple of rockets. These days I purely go on what style of rocket I want. But after seeing an upscale version of my Marauder I want to build it.

Oops! Wrong thread.
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I was totally an Estes guy because I was exposed to them first, and there was no internet to show me the other options. I can remember the time I first encountered Centuri models (at the late lamented Rich's Hobbytown in Pine Brook NJ) and I was appalled at seeing cardstock fins (I was probably around 10 at the time). That planted the thought in my mind that "Estes good, Centuri bad", and I retained that notion until becoming a BAR and learning the Centuri did actually make plenty of good stuff, and that they're part of Estes now anyway.

And for what it's worth the second rocket I built as a BAR was the Estes Centuri. :)

Even though I first saw the 1969 Estes catalog in my seventh grade homeroom class, I was drawn to the Centuri ads I'd seen in comic books.
Centuri's ads were flashier and looking back, maybe a little darker. Look at the width of the border, that'll stand out on a page featuring 20 different vendors.

This ad goes back to 1969, the year I got started.
The first order was for the Centuri Javelin.
I actually got the kit, minus the engines, for $1.50
We couldn't get engines by mail back then, the California fireworks code was strict.

Centuri art and catalogs always seemed a bit slicker than Estes.
Both companies had unique offerings but I thought the Centuri line better presented.

If I'd spent as much time in school books as I did studying the Estes "Yellow Pages" I could have been a straight A student.
It was Centuri for me. Estes came later but I felt the Centuri catologues were a bit more snazzy than the Estes ones. Advertising can make or break you. I also visited the Centuri store in Phx. as I lived there during the time when they were still around. I was a bit disappointed thinking I was going to see something on the scale of an auto manufacturer's plant but in reality it was much, much smaller. Still got to see my favorite rockets on display behind the front counter which made it worth while. Used to visit Gordon's Hobby Lobby to buy some of my stuff as well as mail order items.
I got started in 1979 (I think) after initially starting in plastic models and it was only Estes where I grew up. The local five and dime, Belmonte's, in New Haven, IN, was where we got our stuff. A couple of years later I got involved with a club in Ft. Wayne, the Summit City Aerospace Modelers (SCAM), and started to become aware of other brands and manufacturers of rocketry products. But even then, as a young teen, I was under the impression that the Centuri Brand was much older and non-existent by that point. There were three Hobby Shops in Ft. Wayne then and all of them only carried Estes products. I've built an NCR kit, and I have an ASP kit, but I have yet to build/buy anything from Centuri.
Estes, and I don't remember knowing that Centuri existed. We built for mini motors, A-C, and even cold power. The neighbors (grown) sent over a box of flown rockets and parts at one point and that included a very exotic looking thing (which I now know to be a Laser-X) and a large beautiful silk parachute (Enerjet?).
Centuri. It was the only rockets that the hobby shop carried at the time.
When I built rockets in the early '70s, it was strictly Estes. And strictly mail order.

I still remember my first order - Alpha starter kit, Big Bertha, and Mark II. And those Estes catalogs were the best!
Estes was all my local hobby shop had in the 80's. started with an Alpha III starter set and a Spartan..
Primarily Estes, then learned about Centuri and got some of theirs

Local hobby shop only carried Estes, but they also carried all of the parts so you could scratch build.
When I first got into the hobby I don't recall seeing any Centuri kits at the stores I frequented (although Orange Blossom must have had some). It was some time later that I saw a few in a small hobby shop, but the selection was small and didn't appeal to me.
Lee Piester kicks off the first launch last year at our Centuri classics launch. It was great to meet him, I asked if he ever got my design contest submission, he got a good chuckle out of that, it was probably well after he sold his interest when I submitted my plans, never did win that Saturn V kit so I had to buy it with my paper route savings.

Launch of my alien scoutship flying saucer from a Power Tower being photographed by Bill Stine in the background.

Still a card carrying member of the Centuri Aerospace Team



But, hey I like Estes too, was a real thrill to meet Vern and Gleda at NARCON 2015. I tended to order Centuri by mail and buy Estes from the hobby shop back in the late 70s early 80s.

Edit: I don't think you have to be mutually exclusive as a model rocketeer, heck we have lots of other great kit makers out there now, which is great. Estes or Centuri is not really as a divisive or polarizing choice as say PC or Mac. :)
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The first time I ever heard of model rockets was when one of the guys in my class brought the 1971 Estes catalog (The one with the Interceptor on the cover) to school. I was eight years old, already into model airplanes, and had often dreamed about how great it would be to have rocket models that actually flew, but until that moment I had no idea that such things existed. It was a glorious revelation! I devoured the whole thing, especially the "yellow pages". It wasn't too much later that I got my Estes starter set, the one with the Porta Pad and an Alpha III.

The first Centuri catalog I saw was the 1973 version with the Sky-lab on the cover. The Centuri designs seemed to be a bit more exotic than Estes, for some reason. Most of the hobby shops in my area carried Estes only, so there was definitely a forbidden fruit aspect as well that gave the Centuri stuff a certain appeal. A few years later we discovered a hobby shop a couple of towns over that carried a few Centuri kits but it was pretty rare to actually get over there, dependent as we were on parental transportation (Not to mention parental enthusiasm, or lack thereof!). Like Neil, I was a bit surprised the first time I encountered the "fiber" fins! Later, after the merger I suppose, the local shops started to carry both.

I remember the two big debates amongst the rocket guys were whether it was pronounced "sencherie" or "sen CHOOR ie", and which company was better. I think my first impression was that the Estes kits seemed to be a bit higher quality, but I couldn't really say why. I ended up with plenty of both!
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My introduction was Rock-A-Chute. I was in and out of the hobby before both Estes and Centuri.
I only knew about Estes so that was it for me, never saw anything else until years later.
Both, but Estes was more readily available. I did like the Centuri fighter-jet rockets. Estes Orbital Transport beat out the Centuri equivalent. All that said, one of my all-time favorite rockets was the Centuri SR-71 Blackbird. It's been repaired several times, but STILL flying!
I started with Estes in 1968, then branched into Centuri in 1969-70. Centuri kits seemed a little slicker, both in ads and in construction. The Centuri Saturn V was obviously superior to the identical scale Estes version so I insisted my grandmother get me that for Christmas 1969. (I finally got up the nerve to build it in summer 1994).

I also picked up some MPC stuff in 1970-71.

I was planning/hoping to move up to Centuri Enerjet mid-power kits in 1970-71 but I started to run into the double whammy of limited flying space, limited rocket budget, and other things to spend that money on, like girls etc etc.

I only flew rockets a couple times after getting my driver's license in Sept. 1974 before taking about a 20-year break. Since then I've been on a year-on/year-off type schedule on flying. Some years I don't do much and some years I do quite a bit.
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