Jimmy and I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama whose nickname is Rocket City. It is the place where Werner von Braun and other scientists gathered to build the future of American rockets including weapons but also where the space program was a major component. It was the city where they had the Redstone rockets at Redstone Arsenal, an army base. It is where the Marshall Space Flight Center was located and where the gigantic Saturn booster rockets for the Apollo Space Program were built and test-fired. My Dad worked in the Apollo program and later in Skylab. Huntsville was a high tech science and engineering town to a large degree in the 1960s and early 1970s. Still is to some extent. My first engineering-related job was in Huntsville at Teledyne Brown Engineering where I worked on the Space Shuttle (back before they built it) and on missile defense systems.

Two related memories stand out for me. First, one day my Dad took Jimmy and me out to a hill a distance from the test stand where they test-fired the Saturn boosters. Sometimes when they test fired them, the entire city would shake like there was an earthquake. Dad wanted Jimmy and me to actually see a test-firing. He knew when it was scheduled. He worked in the blockhouse near the test stand. Counting down on the watch, we excitedly waited for the big moment. We were not disappointed. What power as the engine erupted! You would know that a young man’s mind and heart would be creatively pumped and juiced from seeing such a thing.

Second, I recall Jesse Arildsen, one of Jimmy and my best friends from high school. Jesse went to the Naval Academy (later to serve on submarines) and was home for Christmas break. I believe it was New Year’s Day. The three of us took a model rocket that Jimmy and I had put together, put an engine in it and set it up for launch at an open field at the University of Alabama in Huntsville where Jimmy and I attended college. Hooking it up to our car battery, we stood back in protective mode in case the rocket went awry and touched the wire to the battery. Off it went! Fairly high. The capsule came out with a parachute as it was supposed to as the rocket part fell to the ground. Then we gave chase across campus to follow the capsule and chute as the wind blew it. It landed on a second story walkway connecting two buildings. We had to get a security guard to let us in the building to go up and get it. But it was definitely an enormous success for Jimmy and me.

On another note, although Jimmy and I had not yet come to faith in Christ, our friend Jesse was pro-Jesus and attended a Baptist church in town. We gravitated to such friends and that no doubt helped influence us as we searched for peace with God during those days.