This is crazy. I found this advertisement in an old Batman comic book from the 1960’s. You can click on the advertisement to get a better look, but here is the prize description:
No Put-on. This is for real – the wildest, way out prize ever awarded for any contest: a 19 foot prototype of the famed NASA spacecraft. Your Gemini capsule is just like the original. There’s a detachable hatch, equipment section, and retro-fire package. Accurate from the ground up! When you win Gemini you’ll be at the airport when it arrives in a “Flying Guppy” Aero Spacelines plane. Your name and picture will be newspapers and magazines all over the county. How will it feel to present your spacecraft to your city for a park or museum? Famous, that’s how. There’s more. As the grand prize winner, you’ll receive a professional Vox “Serenader” guitar – plus, every Revell model Kit! Sounds great.
So I saw this advertisement and knew I wanted to write about it, but I didn’t know what happened. Did they award someone? Searching online I found a post on rocketry forum that talked about it. In 2009 someone sent a letter to Revell asking about the contest. Here is what they replied with:
I spoke to a man by the name of Howard Reider. Howard was the man who brought this idea to life. In 1967, he was the PR & Marketing Manager for Revell. He was very sorry, but had zero information on who won the prize. His best suggestion would be to look in local papers in Oregon or possibly Boys Life Magazine archives as the prize was donated by a winner to a local museum. Possibly, the museum in Oregon has a file on this and the boy that won.
To confirm for all, this was not a model. This was an actual replica that was produced by McDonald Douglas. The capsule had to be shipped via railroad direct to the museum. The prize was awarded via a sweepstakes type entry, in order to win; the winner had to agree that they would donate to a local museum for two reasons, (1) So that others may enjoy and (2) Because it had to be shipped via railroad direct to the donation site.
A little more trivia for you, the cost of building this kit was $5,000. In 1967 $5,000 was unheard for any type of prize. Plus the additional model kits that the kid won. At least the kid got to keep all the model kits as he watched his beloved capsule given away. There were numerous glitches along the way in production. At the last minute McDonald Douglas said they would not provide the capsule. However, after seeing all the press etc, they some how found a way to complete the project and deliver to the museum.
I would be interested in hearing any further information on this if the museum has the name of the winner etc.
I realize this does not answer your number one question of WHO the big winner is, hopefully, you will find some of this info helpful.
Also, it made Howard’s day when I called him and asked about this. He said in all the years after this contest, not one person ever called him about it again. He was astounded that now 40+ years later that people are interested.
Please keep me advised if you are able to find the winner etc.”
Now let’s look at a couple of things. While the contest mentions how great it would be to donate it to a town or park – in no way does it stipulate you have to. I imagine such vague wordings wouldn’t fly in a contest today. I can say that in no way would I have given up my own genuine 19 foot rocket replica.
I would file the paperwork and make myself a non-profit. Rent space for a month that I could showcase this rocket to the town (maybe even in front of town hall). Upon receiving the rocket I would donate it to my non-profit, which would then display it in the town. After the display agreement ended – or one month or rental was over the non-profit would go out of business. The owners would split up the assets (myself and the asset of one rocket replica) amongst themselves. Otherwise what do you have? The vox guitar strumming, no rocket replica having, model building blues – that’s what you have.