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Phoenix 1 Project 1978 on!
In March 1978, work was begun on the "Phoenix 1" flying saucer project for the "White Light Magic Show'. At the same time "Dr. Wizard and the Time Machine" was being produced and practiced.
Additional sound equipment was being manufactured and procured for this production. Kim and Mike led the way with Dr. Wizard, and the full show was presented at The University of North Florida, in May 1978. Rights were given to take this show on the road with WLMS.
The "Phoenix 1 Spacecraft Project" was started in the carport of my family's beach house, in St. Augustine Florida, around April 1978. My mother was dismayed at having to temporarily open up her nice, quiet orderly beach house to my flying saucer / time travel experiments, and to my more-than-a-little unconventional show business friends. She also surmised that our neighbors would not exactly be overjoyed to have such a machine sitting nearby, undergoing constant, and often very noisy renovations.
The flying saucer was originally built to be used as a static stage prop in our rock opera, "THE WHITE LIGHT MAGIC SHOW".
We used plywood to get the shape correct, with the idea that fiber glass would be the final covering. This form allowed the adaptation of our "Black Budget" gizmos which were obtained from military surplus and NASA surplus sales. Being intrigued with the concept of eventual flight of a similiar bird we started studying all available sources in order to make working air lock and portals for view ports.
NASA was very eager to help our fledgling aeorospace division "GEOMAGNETIC AVIONICS SYSTEMS". We determined that a hull would be vacuum proof if we could pump it up with three or more atmospheres without parts of ragged fiber glass ripping off the limbs of close by lurkers.
"Farady Shielding" was determined to be essential in order for our test crew not to become like a hot dog in a microwave due to the ongoing EMP during a supposed flight. Since much attention had to be given to long and short time life support, both open and closed loop environmental systems were studied. The drive unit had its own problems and solutions.
The mercury used for the temporal cyclotron in the containment chamber part, of the invertor coil became problematic. Mercury is very toxic and does not like containment except in a few materials, none of which like to be fabricated in a craft which may be stressed to twenty gravities in an instant. We liked glass but had to lean more towards ceramics or composite materials which, on our non Defense Budget, hampered our creativity.
The old Hewlet Packard oscillators we used for the pulse sources were not adaptible to the precise signal stabilities we sought. The oscilloscope of old Apollo vintage, was a power hog. (we still have a scope like this if you want to buy it) It utilized about 60 vacuum tubes as did our coil drivers, which were part of our Rock and Roll amplifiers.
We determined that we needed a total of 300 watts per channel, or about a 2kw source load for the on board generators. Figuring that solid state was the way to go, as we now had weight, balance and power problems.
After a few months my mother had had enough. She made plans to sell the beach house. We carefully dismantled "Phoenix 1 prototype a", sold off the electronics and gathered our notes, and toolage for the next ship.
I can only imagine the collective sighs of relief heaved by our neighbors at our departure and at the simultaneous cessation of hundreds of watts of low frequency sonic experiments usually late at night.
South Bend Indiana, the summer home of the ""White Light Magic Show Rock Opera" was the next stop. After some real estate investing we ended up with 3 corporate homes. Our Chestnut Street address was to be the next Flying Saucer Base. Much to the dismay of our new neighbors, my mom was right, the back yard contained "Phoenix 1 prototype B" sitting proudly amid a occasional round of shot gun fire from the natives. Here solid state devices were experimented with, and the cabin interior was studied.
One day upon returning from work at our sister store "The Interplanetary Trading Company", Anne and Robert, seeking Kirk their roommate and a member of the company, and not finding him inside, went to the back to see if he was out with our U.F.O. Lo and behold ,there he was, with three of the strangest creatures I had beheld since the last concert. Each was dressed in a sheet and a military blanket "O.D.", as their clothing. Sort of like a picture out of the Bible but reeking of the military surplus store's wares. Since they seemed interested in our space craft and Kirk was proudly exibiting the features, I took the liberty of asking them who they were. Since the local South Bend Chamber of Commerce had done an article, on our musical U.F.O., we had had to deal with our share of kooks, and spooks.
They said: "We are children of God and we come from Heaven". standing there looking at my star ship and this trio I made the only decision that my grade school nun, Sister Celestine would have been proud of. She had taught us a concept about Angels walking among men and the wise man offering food and lodging to them. "Are you hungery" I blurted. So they stayed for three days with us.( I'm sure Anne will edit her take on these folk later as she edits my poor prose.) Yes, you are right - AC!
Before this unit could be brought on line, tragedy struck and Anne and Robert had to move to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Susan's husband, Larry, had died and the Florida division needed their presence.
Here we again sold the electronics, and later moved to West Palm Beach. Opening "The Interplanetary Trading Company No. 2" store, we purchased boats in order to gain insight on closed loop environmental systems as a transfer of technology from sea to space. Setting up our catamaran for an Atlantic trip brought up all sorts of life support concepts. Learning how much fresh water is consumed by a crew of 4 for thirty days is among the least of the wonders of survival. When Anne did the classic split, while Eight months pregnant, between the dingy and "SITI", our fine ship, the boat experiments were over for the winter. She will tell you all about it later.
Gainesville Florida was the next saucer nest. So I went into the Gainesville airport and rented a hanger. "What kind'a plane ya own" growled the airport manager. I replied very truthfuly, "Experimental Kit". Giving us our key to the hanger, the manager assured us he wanted to see it when we got it built. Bruce spent days lugging the new electronics into our new hanger for "Phoenix 1 protype c". As we were cutting some of the formers of our air foil, one day, the airport manager was back to inspect our fine craft. First scowling at our electronics lab, as if he had caught Frankenstine in the process of charging life in the monster, he said. "Watcha got here? Don't you boys know that no PML labs can compete with the airport facility?" The airport had it's own precision measurement electronics labrotory which had a monolopy in repairing and selling avionics to the general public it supported. Claiming that we were not for hire and therefore not any competition at all did not seem to make any differance to this veteran of many air wars. "Can't do it here, Gotta move. So we moved, thinking of a press release we never would send, "Flying Saucer thrown out of local airport".
Prototype c, next landed at our store, which we had established, in a huge but almost abandonded shopping center on Wiliston Road. The "Interplanetary Trading Company" was a retail outlet for military and NASA surplus electronics which we were still buying and selling. We did a brisk business in test equipment to local University of Florida students and staff. Around the time my son Micah was born, business slowed down due to the summer school term and we decided to cut our losses and close the store for the season. The "Phoenix" was moved to an experimental apple farm near Newberry Florida. "The Flight of the Phoenix": The apple farm was were our saucer finally flew. This was not due to our nullifing the local gravity gradient or discovering "Flubber" but was due to an act of God. One night a thunder storm of immense proportions came and tore part of the roof off the house, destroyed virtually all of our records, tapes, notes and other personal items. When we emerged from the debris to our astonisment our "PHOENIX", had probably exceeded the first Kitty Hawk flight by several inches. Not having a ruler or tape measure handy we failed a Guinness record. There was our space ship, nosed into it's own crater, NASA electronics spilling from it's broken frame. We salvaged as much as we could and attended several local flea markets and Ham Radio conventions hawking our space crafts guts to local farmers and mad scientists. Anne will probably fill in a few details of the farm disaster as soon as she discovers this page, sadly in need of rework. I am an engineer, not an English major. Robert. (Ain't that the truth?!- AC)
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Defense Conversion on a Budget how we built the Phoenix 1 Project 1977
As our first research lab, in the basement of the Carroll Street house in South Bend, Indiana, needed an oscilloscope for our ELF and sonic experiments, we went in search of Department of Defense surplus sales. The year was 1977 and it was nearing the end of the road show season.
While I searched with the Department of Defense Offices in Battle Creek Michigan, Nigel found one that was nearer. Our local Bendix Aerospace was having an auction. At the time our "Wizard Jewelery" division, which was funding our endeavors was running out of money as the season was almost over. Grabbing some carnival jewelery, Nigel and I started walking to the sale, selling jewelery all the way, to our customers along the route.
Hitching a ride for the last few miles, we arrived with our new found wealth of $112.87 to bid our hearts away on millions of dollars of former I.C.B.M. quality control equipment.
We were the lowest bidders in this whole high bid sale. Our guide, who had festooned us with security badges, scowled at each of our $3.00, $7.00 and $22.00 bids. As we squandered our paltry life savings, he saw his life's work start to dissolve in our handful of low dollar bids.
The bids were read one by one. It seemed that the folks with the large cash bids of thousands, often pulled their large wads of cash out of stained and torn bib overalls. Typically they were millionare junk dealers, out for a few large bucks. We learned that most of these folks had many international contacts who wanted our obsolete space program's parts for their own.
As the bids went on, and large bucks were handed to the cashiers for state of the art lab equipment, our miniscule bids were filed into the convenient circular file. After seeing all the tons of equipment being sold and sent to places unknown, to continue their missions, we left scopeless. But we still had our "fortune", less 2 cokes and 2 candy bars from Bendix's well stocked machines.
The next day we packed and caught the last road show of the season. Since our old faithful "White Knight" Dodge Van was still "benched" in the shop, from our previous ventures, Nigel and I stuck out the thumbs and bounced to Michigan.
A week later, our fortune increased by substantial proportions, we returned to our house in South Bend, to find a note from Bendix scolding us for not paying our $7.00 and removing our test equipment. Dumbfounded, we called and found out that the only bid, in a forgotten room, on a piece of equipment, was ours.
Nigel quickly summoned help from a friend, with a pick up truck, for the promise of a tank of gas. Arriving at Bendix, Nigel soon found that our piece of equipment weighed just short of a ton. What we had bid on and won, was not an osciliscope exactly, but a solid state and electron vacuum tube tester,
unlike anything to be found in Radio Shack at the time.
Don't get me wrong, I spend a lot of time in places like Radio Shack. The magnets for our center pendants on our line of "Psycotronic Generators" necklaces, over 16,000 built before we lost count, will attest to that.
Back to the point: The "Beast", was a lab desk, made of much aluminum panel, and channel, it measured about five feet deep, about eight feet wide and, the counter was about normal lab bench height. The back had a wall of instruments, including a scope. Unfortunately, this was an X-Y unit and not like the Tectronics 500 series we had our hearts set on.
Apparantly, this fine piece of equipment had served her country proudly for most of the space race. It had been used to provide accurate Quality Control Inspection of almost every vacuum tube or transistor device for some previous decades.
Shock and dismay woke practical Nigel out of the history narrative to blurt, "How can we move it?" "No problem, got a fork lift over there" spoke our Historian/shipping and receiving manager.
Loading the "Beast" on the pickup was accomplished by enlisting the help of the driver of the lift, offering him an $8.00 "bribe" and pulling him away from his assigned task of making coffee.
We did an out of pocket expense report, on this, labeled transportation.
The pick up groaned under the weight, but surprisingly, there was still 1/4 inch before the wheels would touch the wheel wells. The pickup proceeded at a none too rapid pace of below walking speed, with flashers flashing, and many irate horns blaring. With the truck groaning at each pot hole, our heroes watched in horror, as the railroad tracks came ever nearer. Visions of a tottering space craft test unit perched precariously on the rails of the truck could not fail to escape anyone's mind.
Hitting the tracks, the "survivors" later confessed, was almost as good as taking a rocket ride. The wheels, upon hitting the tracks, alternately locked up and then gained traction. The "Beast" alternatly rocked back and forth, threatening to either crush the street below, or crush the cab of the truck.
Evidently tiring of its threatening role, "the Beast" finally gently settled down , with one last nudge to the truck, breaking free the wheel that had been caught between track and wheel well.
Pulling up in front of the Carroll St. house, Nigel and the others showed me the "Beast" mounted precariously on the back of the leaning and sagging pick up truck.
Quickly summoning all the neighbors, we started stripping modules off of the equipment. Huge black boxes, containing all sorts of power supplies, from very low to very high voltages, were carefully removed and labeled as to function and connectors.
Fortunately, all the circuit diagrams and engineering change notices were included with our new inventory. Finally, after all the electronics were stashed in the lab, the aluminum carcass of the "Beast" was hoisted off the truck. It took 5 or 6 of us to accomplish this, as I recall.
The "Beast" sitting in front our house, looked like some robotic whale beached upon a dune. Supper came and went, while we speculated on how to turn our huge, unwieldy $15.00 investment into anything that could keep our enterprises together during the cold winter coming. "Let's build a robot, out of it" decided Georgine for the group.
While Patricia and Robert built the form of the robot, which was modeled after Patricia, Nigel stalked the streets hawking our prototype "Theatrical Robot" to the merchants of South Bend. The electronics consisted of an audio amplifier allowing two way speech path between the robot controller and the audience. The eyes consisted of an iris tube and neon emiter, which coupled with the speech made a compelling effect.
The right arm was partially articulated, and the body was covered with space angel clothing consisting of a flowing gown.
Our first purchase order came from an "adult" book store. We didn't take this contract. There was too much potential for wise cracks about "Pimping" our Robot. Our first gig with "F1", (standing for Flossie 1, which was now her name) was in Niles Michigan at a night club, opening for some friends with a "sister" band. F1 stood proudly greeting customers on tape or live as Nigel got on the remote.
The "Wizard" even showed up that night.
The next Gig, in which we booked "F1" to be the spokeswoman, was at a retail boutique. This allowed our band of robot owners to obtain some much needed cash and costumes.
Meanwhile our team of engineers and mad scientist were in the basement lab cooking up our "Laser-Con" project. This consisted of the X-Y oscilloscope, fed by two sound sources that displayed on the screen while the sound flowed out of our amplifiers. These were large power supplies, that we re-engineeded into push pull pentode amplifiers. The immediate object of the laser-con was to supply audio and visual effects in a night club atmosphere.
After working with the prototype laser-con for a few weeks, staff and friends started to notice effects of brain wave entrapment as well as temporal effects on human observers. No animals were harmed in this experiment, but I would never be the same! Before this device could be placed in a commercial environment, a friend of a friend offered a large cash contribution to our show fund and departed with the laser-con as his own temporal distortion toy. A second robot modeled after Nigel was built.
As the snow was starting to fall, we packed up robots and a crew of four to do the Florida circuit. It was December 1977.
During a severe storm in St. Augustine, the Nigel robot prototype was destroyed after sailing thirty feet, propelled on a gust of wind.
The next show was booked at Bradenton Florida in January 1978.
As we set out minus one of our crew, (Dave, who had "defected" back to South Bend, in search of his "soul mate") and one robot, our van, "The White Knight", blew its transmission enroute. We had to abandon the van and most of our equipment, till later. We had arranged to meet Ray, --- a compatriot who had a show called "Dr. Finster's Traveling Medicine Show" ---, at Bradenton. We showed up meeting Ray empty handed. Fortunatly he had a jewelery concession running and money was made. I suffered from reaction to a poison, and had to be evacuated to Fort Lauderdale.
Other wise it was a great road show.
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