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.
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 turned a harmless toy into a 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 popular to this day.
And, as one might expect, technological advances have brought countless variations. Here’s a particularly powerful “professional” water rocket:
Some ambitious young tykes have even made their own versions, using household items such as soda bottles and bicycle pumps:
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.