Weird Arizona fans should be well familiar with the decaying "meat rocket" that sat for years off Highway 69 in Prescott, Arizona. Purchased years ago by local Steve LaVigne, the 1950s-era rocket that once advertised Luer Quality Meats in parades across the country had been waiting patiently among a collection of vintage trucks and buses, its future up in the air.
On a return trip to Prescott for a recent book signing, I tried to get in touch with Steve to cash in on a promise to get a look inside the Luer Rocket and to find out if he had any new plans for the Space Age missile. Problem was, the contact information I had for him was out of date and I was unable to reach him.
However, by an amazing coincidence, Steve happened to be shopping at the Costco that was hosting the signing on the very day I was there, and spotted the image of the rocket on page 237 as another patron was flipping through the book. Once we each realized who the other was, we began to chat enthusiastically about the rocket, and that's when I learned the bittersweet news: the Luer Rocket was gone!
As Steve informed me, he sold the rocket to a pair of collectors back in November 2007. The lucky recipients, a father-and-son team named John and Peter Kleeman, bought the artifact, loaded it onto a flatbed truck and had it shipped 2,500 miles to their home in Litchfield, Connecticut.
The Kleemans have spent the last 20 years amassing a collection of Space Age artifacts, including toys, robots, advertising and even a large, rocket-shaped amusement-park ride. They frequently loan parts of their collection to various museums, but hope one day soon to open their own Space Age Museum in which to showcase their entire assemblage.
The Kleemans have promised to restore the Luer Rocket to its original condition, just as it looked in the 1950s. In fact, Steve explained, that's the only reason he finally let the thing go. He had been holding onto it until he found someone who appreciated its history and would make sure it had a good home.
Of course, I'm disappointed the rocket is so much farther away now, but I'm happy to know that it will finally be restored to its former glory. Here's hoping it won't be long.