I’ve been meaning to post pics of my travels to the furthest reaches of outer space, after finally visiting Rocketship Park in Torrance late last summer to come face-to-face with what may be one of the last remaining Rocket Slides in Los Angeles.

You may remember my discovery of this park in a previous post, while on a typical ’70s child rant that “they just don’t make ’em like they used to.” In this case I was referring to the disappearance of the infamous “Rocket Slides,” which were almost standard issue for Westside L.A. parks of the ’70s. Lo and behold, a quick flick of Flickr (now populated with my own photos) would reveal that there was still a standing rocket in Torrance, CA. So you know that I brought my family out there at Warp Speed.

Rocketship Park: Preserved

It was truly an awesome sight to behold. Yes, there it stood, a real live rocket, towering in all its gleaming galvanized steel glory, complete with that funky musty steel smell that I remember so well from my childhood (just grab hold of the hand rails then smell your hands afterwards, and you’ll know what I’m talking about).

This was truly a cosmic experience for both myself and my kid, who finally got a chance to be on top of the world—nothing has topped this gargantuan in height. For all you Westside ’70s kids who, like me, had thought that playground rockets had blasted off our planet ages ago, this rocket will surely send you into Hyperspace.

Rocketship Park: Stage Two

Funny, I don’t remember them wrapping that third stage in the fencing material back in the day. I’m sure that was a later addition for added safety. Heh. Safety. Whoever thought of that back in the ’70s? I sure didn’t.

Rocketship Park: Slide to Earth

Dood, look at that slide from the second stage. I bet you anyone who grew up in the ’70s (or earlier) can fondly relate to these memories:

  • In the summer, the slide was the perfect mirror to blind you with the sun’s reflection
  • At the same time, the slide itself also got as hot as the sun; the perfect way to sear your legs while wearing those ’70s corduroy short-shorts
  • Some kids found the perfect way to make the slide faster—by scooping up sand and pouring it down the slide from the top
  • Other kids, mostly younger diaper-wearing ones, found ways to make the slide not so fast—by making sticky skid marks on them with their pee or poop-filled leaking diapers. Either that, or there was some other mystery bodily fluid that added that undesirable speed bump on the steel (spit, snot, etc.)

Luckily that afternoon, the weather conditions were perfect for launch, so my boy gave it a shot.

Rocketship Park: Splashdown

I’ll tell you one thing, I’m glad the City of Torrance never knocked this thing down. Heck, with a name like Rocketship Park I should hope not, but with all the bureaucratic politics and increased safety standards, I wonder how much of a fight they have to put up…to keep it up. Note to City: If you ever want to scrap it, don’t. Just give it to me and I’ll put it in my backyard.

Meanwhile, here’s Greg ascending through the stages. Keep in mind that this ship really is made for kids, so if you’ve grown considerably since your childhood (I haven’t), you may have some difficulty passing through these “airlocks.” I barely fit through them myself, and younger astronauts around me looked at me like I was crazy.

Rocket Slide: Down The Hatch

Once in the nose, who could resist taking the helm of this massive missile? Not Greg.

Rocket Slide: Cruise Control

Actually, here’s a wider shot of that steering wheel. Who would’ve known that a rocketship would use a Three On The Tree transmission? American-made, son.

Rocket Slide: Power Steering

Here am I sitting in a tin can, far above the world…ok, it doesn’t look like much from this shot, but it sure is nice (and windy) up in the nose cone.

Rocket Slide: High Above The World

A bonus added attraction to our Rocketship Park visit was their Lunar Lander, which sat patiently nearby. I actually had more fun photographing this celestial sentry, with all its fittings that just screamed ’60s and ’70s.

Rocket Slide: Lander and Rocket

You may recognize this to be the long-lost sibling to another Lunar Lander which I had the joy to meet when I was 6 yrs. old. It’s too bad it’s lost all it’s original markings, but it’s still a genuine surviving lander, nonetheless.

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Ladder

Yes, my earthly mortals, there was enough geek fodder on this tiny little platform for me to reminisce of a time when I could travel light years away just by taking a trip to the local park. It’s ironic that this aged, antique playground equipment is still way advanced in innovation and imagination compared to any of the plastic, über-safe stuff that’s occupied our playgrounds today.

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Entry Chute

It took awhile for Greg to really appreciate the structure; he’s much more of a Muscle Car and Monster Truck enthusiast, but eventually he caught on to some otherworldly charms, as soon as he climbed aboard.

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Portal

Check out this crazy thing. I mean, it’s really just a cylinder with some pipe fittings sticking out of it. But in context, the possibilities are infinite.

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Spotter

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Spotter

Here’s the li’l astronaut himself, doing a systems check.

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Spotter

Once again, the almighty universal idea that any vehicle or craft can be maneuvered by none other than a steering wheel. This disc actually did spin, by the way.

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Steering Wheel

By far, though, my favorite accessory of this spacecraft was its “radar dish,” which allowed us to scan a 360-degree radius of the city, in search for intelligent life forms.

The urge for me to emit sonar “ping” sounds was irresistible as I scanned the landscape, while the steel column responded with a series of metallic groans and squeals. How many beings had done this same search before me? I may never know.

Rocketship Park: Lunar Lander Radar

To my surprise, after some moments I received faint yet distinct signals; intermittent beeps that transmitted coordinates of other rocket slides in faraway lands.

We are not alone.

Anchorage, Alaska (by -bossco-)
Vintage Playground
Eastlake, Michigan (by EEEasterling)
Spokane, Washington (by RocketHorse)
Playground Rocketship
Macomb, Illinois (by elonmellen)
Richardson, Texas (by kates_photography)
At the North/South Carolina border (by defekto)—this is a rare specimen indeed
Montrose, Chicago (IL) (by randoymwalks)
Ada, Oklahoma (by sevargmt)
Rocket 1
Tifton, Georgia (by esposetta)
Rocket in the park
Minneapolis, Minnesota (by janna banna)
Central Park
Fremont, Indiana (by shershe)
Summer Hill, Sydney (Australia) – note the design difference! (by Aliceblueblazes)
to the moon!

Update: The above were taken from results within a Flickr.com search. Little did I know that when I ventured outside the bounds of the Flickr universe—and into the Google quadrant, I would have yet more encounters with an entirely new salvo of rockets, in a broad spectrum of longevity and decay. I’ll present those in my next post. Stay tuned.

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