Thursday, August 09, 2018

Fun With Rockets, 1956

Nowadays we all zoom around in rockets every day without so much as a thought. But in 1956 it was a big deal! Most commuters were still using their old-fashioned autogyros*. Frankly, it was embarrassing. 

Luckily, Disneyland had rockets for all to enjoy, such as this Astro Jet. Going around and around in a circle can be a lot of fun!

And of course there was the big daddy of them all, the TWA Moonliner. I don't ever recall seeing such a long line for that attraction! The crowds ooze between the Rocket to the Moon and the Flight circle like an amoeba. Oozily! I like the glimpse of the distant parking lot, as well as the old administration building next to the berm - it was the former home of the Dominguez family.

*Here is a picture of an autogyro.


TokyoMagic! said...

Back in 1939, when I worked in Democracity, I always used an autogyro for my daily commute.

Nanook said...


I always enjoyed the shape of the Rocket to the Moon's show building - with those two, distinctive round 'orbs' for each theater, and the huge, swooping curve along the front. (And then there's that 'pointy' thing, parked in front of it all). The future never looked so glorious.

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Yeah, the RttM building is a sight I never get tired of.

K. Martinez said...

Will it go round in circles
Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky

I could dig Tomorrowland going retro by bringing back the Astrojets, but only if on a towering circular platform.

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on
Jupiter and Mars

Yeah, the "Rocket to the Moon" show building was the architectural standout of Tomorrowland '55, that's for sure.

JC Shannon said...

Tomorrowland as I first saw it. Soooo cool! I agree with Nanook and Mellissa, the RttM building, combined with the sleek and modern Moonliner, personified the future for this little boy. It reminds me of the TWA Terminal at JFK a little, but I never saw that until we attended the Worlds Fair. We landed our family Autogyro there. Now there's an aircraft only a mama could love! Thanks Major for making my day!

DrGoat said...

Rocket to the Moon was a must ride back then. Loved the vibrating seats when you were under power.
Every time I hear the word Autogyro, I think of Rupert the Bear books. Kind of obscure books out of England. Dad had gotten a few of the books for us. Printed in the 40s I think. There was an Autogyro that this clown had in one of the issues. Strange what sticks and what doesn't.
Thanks Major, these are gems.

Anonymous said...

Dean Martin has a lyric about an autogyro in one of his songs, can't recall the name. They were definitely a thing at some point.

I loved the RTTM, and Mars, when the moon became old hat.

Star Tours just doesn't cut it, especially since we had to lose ATIS to get it.

Thanks Major.


David Zacher said...

Ah, the Rocket to the Moon! A really fun ride!

We never had an Autogyro or a Gyrocopter. Arriving in our pokey airship was always so embarrassing. At least it was a hybrid.

And beyond the parking lot was Harbor Blvd before it became Motel row.

Thanks, Major


Nanook said...

@ JG-

I almost forgot. The song was I'll Buy that Dream, originally from the 1945 film Sing Your Way Home, with Jack Haley and Marcy McGuire. (Talk about an obscure film-!) However, the song received an Oscar nomination in 1946 for Best Song. It lost to It Might as Well Be Spring from State Fair.

A honeymoon in Cairo with a brand new autogyro

Thanks for the reminder.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

All this singing, lyrics and Ahh....Capella. Nice retro post today. Thanks

Stuart Powley said...

Ah yes, the Moonliner. Cutting edge space technology built by a boiler company! Some of you may have seen my flying model I built a few years ago (it's been on a couple of blogs). The amazing thing is, it flies great..without any fins at all! The extended landing gear work as fins. On the real version, gyros would stabilize it with veins that deflected the engine thrust...a trait it shared with the German A-4 (V-2). Of course Wernher von Braun designed the A-4 AND the Moonliner, so there ya go...
Too bad when they took it out they crushed it and buried it. Sad day for space flight in my estimation... Good thing there is another one...

Anonymous said...


@Nanook, that's the tune. It's in my office soundtrack rotation.

I guess they went to Cairo to make the rhyme. Not sure if it was Egypt or Illinois.



As beautiful and sleek as the MOONLINER was she was VERY noisy as it’s aluminum body expanded in the days heat then contracted as the evening cool it PING!! CLANK!! GONK!! PING!! CLANK!!

Each of the showbuilding’s Domed theaters represented “other” TWA Rocketships : The DIANA and the LUNA. So Tomorrowland was actually served by “three” ships!!

Anonymous said...

@Mike Cozart, the first picture showed the "Capella" Rocket Jet.

I remember Daveland having a series showing his collection of the original jets names.

1. Do you know the all the original names?

2. Did the 1967 jets have names too? I can't recall.


Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, you could land it right in your own parking spot - no runway required!

Nanook, nowadays those building remind me of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Not as fun, even if the atom is our friend.

Melissa, that is good, because you have to see it a lot on GDB.

K. Martinez is in a musical mood! Billy Preston and Frank Sinatra, nice. I suppose that form followed function for the RTTM building and its two theaters, but they still spiffed it up more than they had to.

Jonathan, yes, it does look like a cousing to the TWA terminal at JFK. Did you know they are turning that into a hotel of some kind? I’m glad it is being preserved, it is one of the most amazing buildings ever. Glad you liked these. Also, I like the autogyro.

DrGoat, I have heard of Rupert the Bear, but don’t really know anything about the character or the stories. When I think of autogyros, I think of “It Happened One Night”, when the slimy character King Wesley lands one. It was probably the first time I ever saw one, and thought it was the craziest flying machine I had seen.

JG, there are still autogyros made, though they tend to be small personal aircraft. I love the idea of being able to lift off and land without the need for a long runway.

David Zacher, I have still never been clear on how an airship (blimp or dirigible) would be able to operate on anything but calm days!

Nanook, you have definitely pulled that song out of obscurity!

Alonzo, ha ha, I hope you can sing - sadly I can’t. At least not in a way that anybody else would want to hear.

Stuart Powley, yes, I have seen your genuine flying Moonliner! Such a cool idea. I would be reluctant to actually put one of those Estes engines in it. What if it blew up?? I agree, it is a crime that they destroyed the rocket, but I guess Walt didn’t want it going to some other park to rust away, or be otherwise desecrated.

JG, there are so many Cairos! Oklahoma, Nebraska, New York, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Oregon… it was a popular name. But I do generally think of the one in Illinois, since it is in “Huckleberry Finn”.

Mike Cozart, I seem to remember reading about the pings and clonks from expansion in “The E-Ticket” magazine. Thanks for the reminder about “Diana” and “Luna”!

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, I am pretty sure that the Rocket Jets did not have individual names for each vehicle. The Astro Jets names were: Canopus, Vega, Sirius, Castor, Regulus, Pica, Capella, Arcturus, Rigel, Spica, Procyon, Altair, and Antares.

JC Shannon said...

All you guys and gals are so knowledgable! I truly love Disneyland, but I only know a little about the history. I have the fondest memories from the time I was seven until I was 17. Every single day I visit GDB I learn something new from all of you. I remember the first ride on the Submarines, (I was so excited), and I remember the Sub's name. It was the Ethan Allen. I was seven!
Heck, I can't even remember what I had for dinner last night. So thanks to all for the great info! And to Major P. for giving us the place to be.

Melissa said...

Mission to Mars (WDW version) was the first Disney attraction I ever rode. The Mission Control scene is forever printed on my brain.

"Autogyro" always makes me think if Mr. Burns. "I'd like to send this letter to the Prussian Consulate in Siam by aeromail. Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro?"

dean finder said...

LOL @ Melissa
I came here just to post that Mr. Burns quote

Melissa said...

Great minds, great minds... ;)

Anonymous said...

@Major, thanks for the list of names. Pretty cool that you knew that.

This is a great thread.