I was brought up at the very start of the Space Race (1957-1958), and I wanted to be a Rocket Engineer. The problem was that no one gave out a Rocket Engineer degree; so, I became an Aeronautical Engineer (My second love!).
Long before the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) came into being, there was another organization for kids who wanted to build and launch high-powered amateur experimental rockets. It was called the Amateur Rocketeers of America (ARA). Founded by John Carlson, this organization was in existence from 1958 through about 1963. The ARA had an official Army Captain named Bertrand R. Brinley as liasion for young people who were into rocket design and Launching.
My buddy, Vernell Curvey and I were rocket nuts and joined the ARA in 1960. We even had the official ARA jackets and met the Capt. for a convention at Camp Atterbury, Indiana in 1961. (The ARA blockhouse still stands at Camp Atterbury, 43 years after the Army closed the launch facility.)
Our “Bible” was the “Rocket Manual For Amateurs” by the Capt. and was helped out by the latest ESTES catalogue’s design information. (See below)
My buddy and I were only Juniors in High School; but, had to learn Advanced Calculus in order to design the 4 ft rockets that we made using Zinc Dust/Sulphur or Sugar/Potassium Nitrate and even Gunpowder! (Hey, it was a very different world back them.) Except for being set in West Virginia while we were in Southern Illinois , view the movie “October Sky” to see our rocket making journey.
I have attached photos of my jacket, an early Estes catalogue, Alpha and Beta rocket plans that we made, our early rocket designs and some early calculations.
I told my family about my adventures for MANY years and now I can show them.