NARRATOR (in a Rod Serling voice):
“Picture this!--a wildly imaginative kid fascinated with astronomy, space travel, and science fiction. Combine that with the acceleration of the US space program, the paranoia of UFOs, TV shows like Star Trek and The Outer Limits, and you’ve got a 10-year olds’ scary wild journey through . . . the Twilight Zone era.”
Okay, yes that kid was me growing up in suburban Rhode Island in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, and I was
reminded of that special time this past month with the anniversary of John Glenn's five-minute orbit of the earth in 1962 and the safe return of astronaut Scott Kelly after his one year stay on the International Space Station. Glenn’s feat was just the start of some truly incredible journeys into space, and even now I look back in total amazement at not only the feat itself but his raw courage in taking this trip around our planet in a capsule the size of a Subaru. After his orbit, the space program zoomed into action, capped by man’s first moon landing just 7 years later via Apollo 11. All these events, as well as the subsequent moon landings, captured the imagination of not only nerdy science kids like me but an entire world, and they made the ‘science’ of Star Trek seem possible in the future. And 50 years later, we have Kelly’s mission as well as the Space X projects making us dream about a future manned trip to Mars and beyond.
Fortunately for collectors, my fascination with the space missions of the 1960’s resulted in a host of memorabilia about those launches. From commemorative books, pamphlets and mugs to newspapers announcing the major space events, I’ve collected these artifacts over the years and now continue to sell them at Picture This Antiques.
It’s always enjoyable to meet someone around my age who had the same fascination with the space programs, as well as much younger fans who look at this stuff in amazement as they remind me that the Shuttle missions occurred before they were born.
Of course, back in the ‘50’s, Americans were more concerned about the other kind of spacecraft—the flying saucers which were undoubted bringing aliens to invade our fine planet. The famed “UFO Flap Era” was an offspring of the world’s emerging cold war fears, and was fueled in large part by numerous sci-fi movies and TV shows that all tried to raise the our fear level the highest degree (with varying degrees of success). Many of these films made their way to television in the 60’s, and quite frankly I just couldn’t get enough of them. My friends and I watched them all, ranging from the slew of drive-in favorite B-movies such as Target Earth, Invasion of the Saucer Men, and the ridiculously horrible Plan Nine from Outer Space to classic sci-fi films like The War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Invaders from Mars.
Combine those flicks with episodes of The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, and The Invaders, and it’s a wonder we got any sleep at all. During this time there were newspaper accounts of UFO sightings which seemed to occur almost weekly, as well as dozens of books and magazines about flying saucers. When LOOK magazine published a special Flying Saucer edition devoted entirely to flying saucers in 1967, even the skeptical adults in our neighborhood started to believe we were being invaded (my dad rushed out and bought two copies for me, one of which is still in my collection).
Among the flying saucer books of the era, my absolute favorite was Frank Edward’s “Flying Saucers-Serious Business”, and my friends and I couldn’t wait for our monthly edition of “Beyond” magazine to arrive in the mail. In the late 1960’s, I even became a member of the Arial Phenomenon Research Organization (APRO), a group based in Arizona which sought scientific answers to UFO cases. Unfortunately, the organization didn’t make any real discoveries and it folded several years after I had joined.
Decades have passed, and so have the zeal of the U.S. space program and the flying saucer craze. We humans continue to pursue space exploration, albeit in a much slower pace than the days of the Apollo missions. Apparently, it also seems that the aliens have postponed their invasion (perhaps they’ve determined that our planet lacks intelligent life?). Over these years, I’ve lost total interest in flying saucers (yes, I know, that’s called ‘becoming an adult”), and in fact I am selling many of my UFO books and magazines. It seems that the whole flying saucer craze was simply just wide-spread paranoia, and even the X-Files and Cloverfield can’t revive my lost enthusiasm. There are simply many more pressing issues to deal with in 2016.
NARRATOR (again in a Rod Serling voice):
But then again….what exactly WAS it that the Apollo crew heard on the dark side of the moon?