>>COLUMBIA, Mo. - Dan Viets isn't the attorney Columbia thinks he is at home. Oh no, no, no - he's a rocket man.
Recently, Viets, wife Sheila Dundon and friend Don Jourdan set off in a two-vehicle caravan as Jourdan's F-150 pickup towed a trailer carrying a 40-foot novelty shaped like a rocket known as the Moonliner II. They were headed for the Airline History Museum in Kansas City.
"I just think this is fascinating history," Viets said. "It was something I had always thought was really cool."
Viets is a 54-year-old Walt Disney fanatic. For years, he said, he had seen the rocket stationed along Interstate 70, just west of Concordia. He even stopped a few times for a better look. Yet it wasn't until 1997, when he read "Disneyland: The Nickel Tour," that he realized the significance of what he had been visiting.
In 1955, Disneyland opened its gates in California, and Trans World Airlines sponsored "Rocket to the Moon," a ride that featured a nearly 80-foot tall Moonliner at its entrance. When TWA built an administrative building in downtown Kansas City in 1956, Howard Hughes approved construction of the Moonliner II to top the structure.
Disney and TWA ended their business agreement in 1962, and the Moonliner II came down from its perch. It was sold to Spacecraft Co., a business that used the metal figure to promote its camper-shell and recreational-vehicle operation. Spacecraft later moved to Concordia.
The Moonliner II eventually became an I-70 landmark that Viets purchased in 1997. He declines to say how much it cost.
"I spent a lot more - many, many times more - restoring it," he said. "If I had known how much it was going to cost me, I wouldn't have done it."<<
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