The original Rocket Ship slide was installed in White Center Park in 1967. Inspired by the space age it lasted until the 80's when it was replaced. But it was kept and given to the Army, who put it up for auction. The winning bidder, John Henry McAllister still has it on his property along with many other historic items. CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE TO SEE MORE
SLIDESHOW: Remember the playground rocket slide in White Center?
In 1966 Dr. Roy Velling spearheaded a drive to have a special space travel themed Astro Park built in White Center. The successful venture was a thrill for area kids and was dedicated in November of that year by astronaut Richard F. Gordon taking a ride down the big rocket ship slide. The Space Race was going strong in the mid-60's. Timing was terrific for kids to imagine they were climbing the steps to blast off to the stars before sliding down the stainless steel ramp. King County owned and managed the park as it does today.
The park was in disrepair by the late 80's and was removed to King County's bone yard while a new updated play park was created. So what happened to all that Space memorabilia? We've written about the Navy fighter jet now on display at the Museum of Flight at Boeing on Marginal Way S. We've never told you what happened to the 33- ft rocket ship slide because we didn't know.
Here is the rest of the story.
Reader Kyle Davis informed us recently that he'd seen a metal rocket ship as described in our previous story about the play park. He said it was poking out of some brush on East Hill in Kent. It was behind the home of John Henry McAllister, retired engineer and eager Search & Rescue volunteer for King County. But there is a lot more to John McAllister.
For most of his 76 years Big John McAllister has been interested in Gadgets. Like the simple-minded cyborg Inspector Gadget from the DIC Entertainment series during the 80's, Big John spends his time on projects of all types. He's a doer, he'll tell you. But simple-minded he's not.
John Henry McAllister grew up in Montlake, moving for a short time to Vancouver, Wa. where he delivered the Portland Oregonian for a few years while he developed his interest in electronics. Eventually he landed a job with Tech-Tronics and stayed on for more than 25 years. He even got trained as a helicopter pilot. He worked at the Pentagon. He's having a busy life.
Big John is a man with high hopes, big dreams and quite a history of collecting heavy equipment, trucks and odd vehicles including a 1941 Duck used in the Normandy invasion in 1944. There are too many different pieces to count on his 5 acres of brush and trees. Much of what he has is vintage treasure and he has no plans to sell it. Since an auto accident two years ago (he got T-boned) he's been restricted to a wheelchair but it has not dampened his enthusiasm for everything he owns.
A little over 20 years ago he went to Ft Lewis. The Army was holding an auction. For reasons we do not know, King County must have released the rocket ship slide from their bone yard and handed it off the to Army on the chance that they could clean it up and use it or display it.
That never happened. The disassembled play equipment got separated in the transfer as only the rocket ship survived. It was hardly there long enough before it was put on the auction block in the early 90's. Big John was there. He can't recall what he paid for it but he had the diesel truck ready to haul it back to his home in Kent where his five kids played on it for years before they outgrew it. In fact it enjoyed hundreds of kids playing on it over the years until they all grew up and moved away.
Now it stands, towering above the blackberry vines in Big John's backyard. Rust has taken a toll. The original paint is visible but cracking and fading. The slide is thick with thorny vines. In many ways, it is a sad way to see it after such a glorious beginning in White Center.
Dr.Roy Velling would be proud to know that his efforts paid off over the last 46 years. The rocket ship slide lives on; even amidst the blackberries it serves another purpose. Those vines still have twenty-seven feet to reach the stars.
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