The Rocketeer


The RocketeerCliff Secord was born October 26, 1911 on a train travelling between Gary and Chicago. Attended by a porter, Mrs. Secord delivered the squalling infant in the dining car during the dinner hour. Most of the diners present did not finish their meals.

Raised near Detroit, Cliff was an unruly runaway. He spent most of his teens working as a stage assistant in a travelling carny. He learned most of the tricks, grifts and shills of the midway — but always turned up dead broke back in Detroit.

The Depression hit, leaving Cliff out of work, out of money and out of ambition — until he saw his first air race, the 1931 All American Flying Derby. He was thunderstruck at the sight of the Gee Bee: a courageous, stocky, round-barreled bullet of a plane which took second place that day, and went on to leave sleeker aircraft in its wake at races all over the country.

It was love at first sight. Cliff could think of nothing but the compact little racer from then on. He began spending all of his time at local airfields, working as an errand boy, assisting the mechanics, conning a flying lesson or two; anything to be near the reckless air-aces whose every flight was an innovation and an adventure.

Four years after the disastrous 1931 speed record attempt which took the life of pilot Lowell Bayles, Cliff stumbled upon the remains of Bayles' Gee Bee "Z" behind a hangar at a Detroit airfield. Bayles' former mechanic, a wise and canny wrench-turner named Peevy, had scraped the remains off of the field after the crash. He wasn't inclined to sell the wreck to anyone, especially not a green kid with a sky grin and no money.

Except the kid wouldn't take no for an answer — and showed such a talent for flying that Peevy relented and sold the battered remains to Cliff. It took him 2½ years of hard work to reconstruct the "Z." By early 1938 — with Peevy's help — the "Z" was back on its wheels, though not quite ready to fly. Ever optimistic, Cliff christened the plane "The Blind Bulldog."

Cliff was always quick to follow a dollar — though he never seemed to catch one. He was lured to California by the siren call of Hollywood. Stunt pilots were making a fortune, he'd heard, and he dragged a reluctant Peevy and the little Gee Bee from Detroit to the Golden State. But, as usual, it all went bad.

Cliff couldn't be on-set for one day without locking horns with some director. Bounced from one job after another, Cliff was only on-set long enough to lose his head over Betty, a part-time starlet and full-time heartbreaker. Meanwhile, to pay the bills for the temperamental "Z," Cliff and Peevy hooked up with Bigelow's Air Circus, based at Los Angeles' Chaplin Airfield.

Cliff was at bottom again: nothing seemed to be going right with his girl or his career — until some desperate men, a stolen rocket pack and a mysterious government agent compelled Cliff to become… The Rocketeer!