The boys conceived the idea of building and launching a rocket. The power source was a matter of serious discussion. Having no access to liquefied gasses, and the concept of atomic power just now being mastered by Oppenheimer and others, the boys concluded that a solid fuel propellant was required.
But how to obtain the "solid fuel"? Resourceful as these young minds were, it did not take them long to realize that three substances would suffice to provide sufficient force to propel their rocket into suborbital flight. The reader would do well to realize that the V-2 rocket only three or four years before this tale unfolds had been used to attack the British from the European continent. Also realize that it was yet a matter of more than twenty years before anyone launched an orbital foray from Earth.
Stage set, on with the tale. One of the chemicals required was "in stock" in the boys' chemistry set. Another was readily available with a little work around the dregs of a recent "campfire" in their backyard. The third item, however, was not easily accessible, but a little thought brought them to the realization that every drugstore in town had a supply of this magic ingredient. Thus, it being a lazy summer afternoon and with nothing more productive to do, the boys ambled to town and assayed to purchase the item at Walton's Pharmacy. The druggist questioned the boys as to their need of the material, found their answer unsatisfactory, and refused to sell it to them.
Not discouraged, the boys applied what they had learned as they strolled to another drug store a few blocks away. This gave them time to brainstorm the solution to another interrogation. They formulated a brilliant scheme, probably involving such things as "My mother needs it..."
or, "His dad uses it for..."
we they entered the store, and actually found a half-pint jar of the substance on an open shelf near the rear of the store. They took it to the lady at the cash register who rang up the purchase and for the sum of twenty-nine cents, our heroes were in business, no questions asked.
[to be continued] © 2011 David W. Lacy
*refer to map here, if you need memory refreshed.
V-2 missile development: http://www.centennialofflight.gov/