Searching the Sky: A long time coming

David Baumgartner writes about his experiences launching rockets in his backyard as a kid.

This article was contributed by resident David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

It all started when God made the earth, well let’s not go back that far. Let’s move up just a little to the mid 50’s when this young boy, let’s call him David, which was someone I knew well, was in his early teens getting more than a little excited about all the scientific talk on these unbelievable stories about going into space. Knowing these trips wouldn’t take place for many years, I was worried that it wouldn’t happen until I was long gone, therefore missing out on the whole adventure.

So I thought, what can I do to help to get the ball rolling? At that time there wasn’t much on the market to help me out on my new adventure. I did find some CO2 cartridges that I had an idea for. Well, my scientific feat was not to send anyone up in space, that would have been a little aggressive. My idea was to strap my CO2 engine to a long stick and ignite it and see what happens, how high it will go, and where. Saying I was a little naive at the time would be putting it mildly. For I lived only a half block from San Benito St. on the corner of Hawkins St. and Washington St. But not a worry in my head as I set my rocket up in the backyard, called “Cape Rentragmuab,” my last name spelled backwards. Hey, I was just a kid!

It was dark, so no one could see me as the rocket blasted off from the Cape. I franticly ran out to the street just in time to watch my creation come crashing down on the top of this unsuspecting driver’s car. It was my favorite car at the time, a 1957 convertible hardtop. I might guess it is still my favorite. Here I stand bravely behind a large maple tree watching the car pull over with a man getting out, quite confused I might add. And here I stand behind my protective maple tree torn between laughing or wondering if I soiled myself. Well, either way I got away free.

Now you would think that I would have learned a lesson here. Well, what do you think? I was just a kid.  

It must have been a year or so that went by when exciting things started showing up at Muenzers and the Five and Dime stores. A rocket kit. Just assemble, light engines, and off you go. The rocket would reach its height, the parachute would open and the rocket would fall intact softly to earth. No problem here. What could possibly go wrong?

The day came when I saved up enough money to buy my next space adventure, a two foot long Space Rocket. It took me weeks to put it together. I didn’t even paint it, too much of a hurry to get out there and set it off.

So the night finally comes where I get to put my newest creation to the test. Here the rocket sits waiting for ignition. All the hours I put into assembling it was well worth the time spent.

Now here I sit, not too far from my protective maple tree, ready to light the fuse. Finally it is lit. Cape Rentragmuab we have lift off. So excited was I as it reached a height of seven feet and made a 90 degree turn right across Hawkins Street to the neighbor’s home. Now this home had a very huge front window, I would imagine it cost a pretty penny. There I am once again hiding behind my maple tree. This time there was no doubt about my soiling myself, for my prized new rocket that took me hours to assemble, that only lasted three seconds in the air, was now sitting on the neighbor’s living room floor covered with shattered glass. Never got caught for that mishap either. It seems I just can’t do any wrong. Just like our past President.  I must admit that the next day I did go over to the neighbors and admit that it was my friend’s fault, but that didn’t go over well. OK, I said, it was I Commander David in charge of the flight and that I would eventually pay for my mistake.

To this day I still wonder what was going through that neighbor’s mind when they saw this rocket blast through their front window. I picture the rocket still sitting there today on the neighbor’s living room floor not wanting to touch it. 

I’m sorry, this article was supposed to lead me into the story about the Crew-1 Spaceflight that ushered four astronauts up to the Space Station showing that we are back to accomplish bigger and better things in space. Look out Mars, here we come.

Stay safe and Clear Skies.

Things to look for this month:

March 5: Mercury passes 0.3° north of Jupiter

March 5: Last Quarter Moon

March 9: Moon passes 4° south of Saturn

March 10: Moon passes 4° south of Jupiter

March 10: Moon passes 4° south of Mercury

March 13: New Moon


David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. College (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Questa, Colleges, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonville, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate License in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. In December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. None the less, I am retired and I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.