Not long before his death, G. Harry Stine—the “Father of Model Rocketry”—candidly discussed his career, and the struggle to establish a great new hobby.
My first impression of G. Harry Stine was that he was an imposing ﬁgure. Unlike many men, he
carried his commanding size and stature into old age. He also retained most of his classic good looks, too. I immediately thought of the actor Robert Young from the black and white television series Father Knows Best. Harry seemed to be the consummate dad from the 1950s, and very much looked like the historical role he played as the “father of model rocketry.”
He had been expecting me, and quickly led me over to a table where he had put together a number of things related to the history of model rocketry. It was the first interview I had conducted with anyone, and he waited patiently for me to set up the microphones. To hide my nervousness, I reminded myself why I was there and why this was important. Model rocketry has been a big part of my life growing up, and this was the guy who knew more about it than anyone. No one from the Smithsonian Institution had interviewed Harry before, and I was there to make sure that his history would be on record for generations to come. Soon I convinced myself the microphones were working, and we were ready to begin.
Harry was unique from so many other people I have ever interviewed because he knew what was important, and he went straight to the point. After all these years it was easy to see that model rocketry still got him excited. Often his facial expressions would recreate reactions from 40 or 50 years ago, and sometimes I felt like I was there watching it all happen again. Harry also spoke slightly louder and looked at me when he wanted to emphasize a point.
He began, “Basically, I was writing science fact for magazines like Mechanix Illustrated in 1955, ‘56 and ’57, and I began to get a lot of mail from youngsters who wanted to build their own rockets. Well, the White Sands Public Affairs Ofﬁce used to be deluged with these letters. “Dear White Sands: Tell me everything you know about rockets and guided missiles.” The White Sand Public Affairs Ofﬁce discovered I would happily answer these letters, so I was saddled with the job. I knew what was going on out there in the minds of the teenagers. I knew what