Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, August 20, 1959 reprinted with permission
“Charge Three Youths With Rocket Firings
‘Something went wrong’
That’s how Robert Wettstein, 19, 530 10th Ave. S., explained why the rocket
launched Tuesday night by two other youths and himself crashed through the
window of an office at Consolidated Water Power & Paper Co.
Wettstein this morning signed a statement admitting that he and Robert Liska, 20,
Ridgewood Trail, and Gerald Bassler, 18, 1811 Clark St., shot two rockets off
Tuesday night – one from the river bank near the Elks Club, and the other from the
parking lot of the T.B. Scott Library, 820, 3rd St. S.
Arraigned before Police Justice Robert J. Magirl, Wettstein pleaded guilty to a
charge of violating the state fireworks statute. Sentencing was deferred until
Police Chief R. J. Exner said that both Liska and Bassler will be charged with the
same violation. Bassler has already admitted his role in the rocket launchings but no
statement has been obtained from Liska up to early this afternoon.
In the statement given by Wettstein to police officers, he said he and the other two
youths have been experimenting with missile and rockets for the past three years.
They recently purchased rockets from firms in Colorado and Texans, and after
assembling them, would attach balsa wood fins, and a dynamite fuse, making them
ready for firing.
Have Launched Others
‘We’ve launched about 40 rockets before, and nothing like this ever happened’,
Wettstein told the Tribune. He said all previous launchings had been conducted at
the airport, but the recent development project there made it impossible for them to
continue at that siet.
Asked if he and the others didn’t consider it dangerous to launch rockets in the city,
Wettstein admitted that they had ‘debated about that, but we decided it was safe.
According to figures and everything, they both should have landed in the river.’
Flew Over Bridge
The trio first set up the launching rack at the edge of the river near the Elks Club.
The rocket went off successfully but headed up river ‘about 30 or 40 feet above the
bridge’ according to Wettstein’s statement. ‘This must have been the one that
struck the Consolidated office window’, he said.
Then the youths drove around for a short time before returning to pick up a second
rocket from Wettstein’s home. They went to the library parking lot, ‘lighted the
fuse’, and drove to the west side of the river to observe the rocket’s descent.
Wettstein thinks that rocket must have landed in the area of the municipal swimming
pool on 1st St. N.”