Water Rockets

Water Rockets

Who says that science and summer can’t co-exist? Thanks to these nifty spaceship-shaped toys, kids were able to get some firsthand experience of the power of water pressure, and have loads of fun while doing it. A staple on toy store shelves for over 50 years, they are affectionately remembered as water rockets.

The standard package included a rocket made of thick, durable plastic, a small funnel and a pump that looked like a smaller version of what you might use on a bicycle. Turning the rocket upside-down revealed a small hole so you could fill it with water via the funnel. Next, you replaced the funnel with the pump, which clamped to the bottom of the tail section and served as a trigger. Give it the designated number of pumps (and likely a few more, despite what the package said), pull the trigger, and watch your rocket travel toward the heavens.

Okay, maybe not quite that far, but their achieved altitude was certainly impressive (the packages often boasted “up to 100 feet!”). And, while water rockets were meant to be used in parks and public places, many a suburban kid launched them right out of the backyard. Perhaps underestimating their power, young rocketeers often realized, mere seconds after take-off, that they might not ever see their beloved toy again. Especially when it touched down on the roof of a cranky neighbor.

As one might expect, technological advances in recent years have brought countless variations to the original toy. Schools and educational centers even use them to help teach science. Here’s a particularly powerful “professional” water rocket that is helping kids learn a thing or two about water pressure:

Some ambitious young tykes have even made their own versions, using household items such as soda bottles and bicycle pumps. Sounds innocuous enough, but even these homemade version pack quite the wallop compared to their predecessors in water rocket history.

Used properly, water rockets have always been relatively safe toys. The problem is, when’s the last time a kid has ever used a toy properly? Simply changing the launch angle from vertical to horizontal turns a harmless toy into a formidable weapon.

As a result, there have been occasional injuries due to misuse reported over the years – but not enough to make the toy any more scarce. They are still sold by numerous companies under a variety of names and remain quite popular to this day. There’s just a little more adult supervision these days to make sure nobody pokes an eye out.

If your childhood summers included playing with these classic toys, we’d love to hear your memories in our comments section, as we fondly remember the pleasures of the water rocket, here at Retroland.

5 Responses to “Water Rockets”

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  1. Anthony Scott says:

    I have a few of the vintage ones in my toy collection and I bought a new one for my nephew for his birthday last year, but they don’t seem to work as well as the original ones. It’s hard to tell though because I don’t dare ruin the originals by actually using them…

  2. Leroy Huber Jr. says:

    This vintage toy as I owned many models over the 1970s was a good time to be a kid. I wish I still had the vintage 1975 0r older models to show my nieces how toys were made right. The 1975 Red 2 stage rocket water rocket I bought with allowance money that summer ended with my Dad and I launching of several times in the summer; ending up on a 4 story furniture factory’s roof . I estimate the max apogee now at 150 ft. now.

  3. Rudolf says:

    Digged it growing up. Dad got it at the local Thifty store in Los Angeles. It lasted several weeks until the plastic broke on landing on the street.

  4. Amy says:

    I remember setting one of these off in the bathtub as a child. Needless to say, it did not survive

  5. Jamie says:

    New toys are so poorly designed. Miss the ones from the early 80s

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