The ‘Rolling’ Ralston Rocket Clubhouse – The Story Of A National Sensation

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The science fiction adventure series, Space Patrol, was a television phenomenon that ran from March 1950 to February 1955. It began as a local daily 15-minute live TV show aimed at children on KECA – an ABC network affiliate in Los Angeles. In December of 1950, ABC picked up the show for its Saturday lineup and made television history by being the first network to broadcast a live program coast-to-coast. The 30-minute Saturday Space Patrol series became so popular with both children and adults that the 15-minute daily was shown in other cities via kinescoped film prints. A weekly radio program was added to the franchise as well as a comic book series. A cottage industry grew with all kinds of Space Patrol merchandise – a 1952 LIFE article estimated sales of $40 million on 80 items, ranging from space helmets to ray guns, viewscopes, spacephones, puzzles and clothes.*

To this day one of the most talked about memories of the show is the ‘contest to end all contests’. The challenge – ‘NAME THAT PLANET.’

This…contest asked viewers to submit a name for the gigantic Planet X — kingdom of the evil Price Baccarrati — that figured in the series’ storyline during the summer of 1953. The grand prize was [a] forty-foot long rocket clubhouse replica of Commander Buzz Corry’s battlecruiser, the Terra IV (and a sem-truck to pull it!) plus an thousand additional bicycles and Space Patrol toys. Ten year-old Ricky Walker of Washington, Illinois submitted the winning name – Cesaria – and took receipt of the fabulous first prize on January 14, 1954.  – captainbijou.com

The rocket clubhouse was one of the two ‘rolling’ Ralston Rockets which toured the country as an attraction at public events and gatherings promoting Ralston products and the show – the company was one of Space Patrol‘s leading sponsors. Below is a video compilation of the contest hype.

For a short time, Ricky Walker was the most envied kid in the U.S. – it was a huge day in Washington, Illinois when the rocket arrived:

'Ricky Walker Day' Announcement in storefront window.

‘Ricky Walker Day’ announcement in a storefront window. (Photo via johneaves.wordpress.com)

Kids greeting ship in Washington's square in cardboard space helmets

Kids greeting ship in Washington’s square in cardboard space helmets (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE magazine via The Spaceman’s Toy Chest)

Ricky Walker On Rocket Bunk -

Ricky Walker On Rocket Bunk – ‘Inside the ship is equipped as a clubhouse, with eight folding bunks, table, benches, phone, kitchen and power generator.’ (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE Magazine via The Spaceman’s Toy Chest)

Ralston Rocket At Night In Walker Family Driveway

Ralston Rocket At Night In The Walker Family Driveway (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE Magazine via Street Worm at Universal Monster Army)

Eventually the novelty wore off and Ricky’s parents sold the rocket playhouse to a traveling carnival for the sum of $1000. The Ralston Rocket faded into obscurity but lived on in the memories of the viewers as one of the most – if not THE most – amazing prizes in television history. Sadly, the end of the road for the rocket was far less glamorous. In 1985 it was discovered on the property of a small construction company in Gent, New York. No longer the glistening star of 1954, the Ralston Rocket Clubhouse was now rusted and neglected. Area resident Rick DeMeis took the following photographs which he later presented to Solar Guard for posting on their Ralston Rocket page. A short time after these photos were taken, the construction company had it unceremoniously destroyed and sold for scrap.

Thus came the unhappy conclusion to a national sensation.

Entry to the Rocket

Entry to the Rocket

Road side view of Rocket- Santa is looking out

Road side view of Rocket- Santa is looking out

Rear view with Christmas lights

Rear view with Christmas lights

Control center for the Ralston Rocket

Control center for the Ralston Rocket

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4 thoughts on “The ‘Rolling’ Ralston Rocket Clubhouse – The Story Of A National Sensation

  1. Erin

    I live in Washington, Illinois, and it sort of breaks my heart to hear that the Ralston Rocket isn’t alive and well in a museum or–better–in someone’s backyard! What an awesome event that must have been for this small town in the 50s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • William "Bill" Belt

      Erin,
      I was lucky enough to have lived next door to Rick on the day he received his Rocket. I too wish it was still around to see. It was a joy to play in. Rick and I became life long friends and still visit him once in a while. The rocket that Rick received did not have an instrument panel it, that was added later after rick sold it. All it had in the front was a large table and the two large windows. Rick and I and his other friends spent many hours pretending to travel in space. What a great time it was.
      Bill Belt

      Liked by 1 person

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