194. Boys at Work: Lee Correy

By at Wk atwIf you didn’t read Monday’s post, you might want to do so before you proceed. This week is on the subject apprenticeship literature.

Lee Correy had a considerable effect on my life. L. C. was a pen name of G. Harry Stine, an author with a long bibliography, but I don’t think of it like that. I have read some of G. Harry’s work without enthusiasm, and I haven’t read Lee Correy’s two seminal novels since high school. I still think of Lee Correy as a real person, separate from G. Harry Stine. It’s an artifact of my nostalgia.

I am referring to Rocket Man and Starship Through Space, both of which were in my high school library. They would be in my personal library right now, but they are rare, and copies are now out of my price range.

Of the two, Starship Through Space is clearer in my memory, probably because of its lame ending. Two young men travel back from Mars where they are attending a space academy, to find that they have been chosen to participate in the building of the first interstellar ship. They participate fully in the building of the Vittoria, are on the crew which flies her to Pluto and back, are deeply involved in the upgrade and rebuilding that follows, and continue on the Alpha Centauri. That is where it all fell apart for me, as the natives of New Terra resemble Native Americans and turn out to be displaced humans, part of the scattering that followed the Tower of Babel.

The two young protagonists participate fully in the work of building and flying the starship, but they are not running the show. They don’t invent a stardrive or save the universe. They are junior members of the crew, in training, and under the command of competent adults whom they respect.

This is the key to apprenticeship literature. The young protagonists are intelligent, well trained, diligent, hard working, and extremely competent. They aren’t the boss, but they will be someday. They have ambition and confidence, but typically don’t have a lot of arrogance.

The novel Rocket Man meant more to me, but is harder to portray. I don’t remember much, just the overwhelming feeling of lust and envy at what the protagonist was getting to do. The novel has all but disappeared, even from the internet. Goodreads list it without reviews or ratings. The only thing I found to jog my memory was a 1955 Kirkus review.

Here is what I do remember. A young man wants to be a rocket man; to this end he enrolls in the international engineering school in New Mexico. The school is a co-op; students attend classes six months, then work on rockets for six months as apprentice engineers, earning money to cover tuition. I don’t remember too much of the story (you can check out Kirkus) but I will never forget how badly I wanted to be on that campus.

Four years later I was at Michigan State, on a scholarship but short of cash. One option for my sophomore year was to move into Hedrick House, a student owned co-op. I lived that year in a closet sized room, attended meetings to decide house business, and cooked dinner for the fifty guys who shared the place with me. Every night I went to bed with a smile on my face knowing that I was on my way, and paying my own way. And every night I remembered Rocket Man. Thanks, Mr. Stine, known to me as Lee Correy.


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