Tuesday, April 11, 2006

COLLECTIBLE OF THE WEEK #3 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Thermos!

A few months ago, I came across a genuine antique and collectible. It's the Aladdin Thermos from the TV series Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, which ran from 1950-1955. That means that minimum, this item is fifty years old, which I think is amazing.

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet was reportedly inspired by the writings of Robert Heinlen, and during its five years on the air earned the distinction of broadcasting on all four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and DuMont). It was known as the most "realistic" (don't laugh!) of the space programs from that era, the others being Rocky Jones, Space Patrol and Captain Video. The series followed the space adventures of Tom Corbett (Frankie Thomas), an astronaut in the 22nd century studying to become a Solar Guard and manning a spaceship called the Polaris.

So anyway, I was visiting in-laws in rural Virginia when I happened upon this find at a flea market booth. Some of the paint has rubbed off, as you can see from the photos, but the manufacturing information at bottom reads Rockhill Radio 1952, Aladdin Industries Incorporated. This means it's actually fifty four years old. Cool! What's actually most amazing about this piece is that the thing is metal, not plastic, and actually quite heavy.

Don't know why this piece of nostalgia struck my fancy so deeply, but I had to have it (and the price was right: $4.25). It now sits proudly on my desk and I enjoy looking at it. Perhaps I just appreciate knowing that there was a generation before me who loved this kind of thing too, and was inspired by voyages to the stars. Even before Star Trek.

Some day, I guess, the next generation will look at a Space:1999 thermos and think the same thing. "You mean people liked space adventures before Stargate SG-1 or Battlestar Galactica 2005? Who knew!"

Anyway, this comes from the age when our entertainment projected man flying to the stars on "rockets" with fins, talking about the complex procedure of "blast off" and believing that the sky was no longer the limit. I don't know about you, but I miss that kind of optimism today. I listen to our leaders seriously discussing tactical nukes and bunker busters and I wonder why we don't turn all that energy towards something entirely more productive, like conquering the stars and ushering in a new golden age for mankind. I know we can do it, but who's gonna stand up and take us there? Where are the Tom Corbetts?

I'm afraid the people in Washington today are space cadets all right, but not the kind that would have made Tom Corbett proud...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:45 PM

    Last fall, I got to see some Thermos jugs and lunchboxes featuring 1950's Space shows in a different context. They were part of a museum exhibit on the 'Art of the Lunchbox'. The exhibit featured commercial lunchboxes from the mid-19th century to today. Of nostalgic interest to film and tv fans were the box sets featuring famous film characters and shows. Mickey Mouse was one of the first film characters to be licensed. The exhibit had a nice section with box sets featuring 50's scifi shows. All the boxes and jugs were in pristine condition. Too bad you weren't able to get the lunchbox that went along with the Thermos jug. in a different area, a lunchbox set from Star Trek (1968) was on display. It's hard to explain, but I was mesmerized by it.

    The exhibit explained that boxes based on films and tv shows were mostly popular from the 50's to the 70s. A caption, along with a box, explained that the "Rambo" set from the mid-80's was the last of these type boxes Thermos made. It brought back memories of when I was a school kid in the mid 70s. My oldest brother gave me a hand-me-down, his lunchbox from 'Batman' (from 1968), to use for school. It might seem that it would have been out-of-date using it in 1976, but it was actually quite cool- Batman was in reruns everyday after school. All the other kids watched the show too, but only I had a box featuring the show!

    I wanted one box in particular; the Space:1999 lunchbox, but I couldn't find one in stores. Remember that great line from the 90's film "Free Enterprise" where the woman exclaims to the man "You're the only 30 year old guy I know with a Space:1999 lunchbox!". If only I would have kept half of the tv memorabilia I had as a kid.

    The exibit on lunchboxes is a travelling exhibit. If it comes to a museum in your area, see it!