RINCON — A second generation of “aliens” is using a “spaceship” that has returned to its launching pad at Jaycee Park.
The refurbished piece of playground equipment was absent for two years because it was receiving much-needed repairs at Metal Clad Industries.
“It was worn out,” Rincon City Councilmember Reese Browher said. “Probably thousands of kids wore it out over the last couple decades.”
The announcement of the spaceship’s reappearance in the Jaycee Park galaxy was greeted with applause at the end of a recent city council meeting. Browher had pushed for it for months.
“Kids, they love that thing,” Browher said. “My girls played on it when they were little. People laughed at me because I wanted it fixed for a long time.”
The maiden voyage of the “spaceship” lasted nearly two decades. It debuted in 2000 as part of a massive renovation at the city-owned park in front of the South Effingham Branch Library on Ga. Hwy 21.
It was removed after growing rusty and jagged in a few spots.
“We were planning on scrapping it but I had several people mention to me how disappointed they were and how disappointed their kids were that ‘the rocket ship’ had been taken out the park,” Browher said.
The outpouring of support forced Browher into action. He contacted former City Manager Wes Sampson, who enlisted the help of Metal Clad Industries owner Andy Hutson.
“He took it completely apart, recoated it, reworked the metal and had it about where it needed to be and then (Rincon Recreation Department Director) Mike Osborne and his staff found a guy to put a few finishing touches on it,” Browher said. “It’s kind of been a process.”
Hutson happily played his part. He didn’t charge the city for his contributions to the project.
“We are always trying to find ways to aid our community,” he said. “... Andy didn’t get me where I am. My community got me where I am.”
Hutson developed his sense of philanthropic spirit through men he met early in his life. He mentioned Cornell Mock and Pete Lancaster.
“Mr. Lancaster taught those of us who would listen that you have two options in this world. You can impress or impact,” Hutson said. “If you choose one over the other, the other will come naturally by itself.”
Hutson’s gratis work undoubtedly saved the City of Rincon a great deal of money. Browher estimated that a new “spaceship” would likely cost well in excess of $10,000.
“The outside parameters were rusted in half,” Hutson said. “We put brand new tubing all the way around the outside parameters. Some of the bolts were missing, too.”
Hutson had to scour the country to find replacement bolts. He needed hundreds of the obsolete items.
“I found some in Wisconsin,” he said. “Those are childproof bolts in that thing. They have a little mechanism in them that makes it very hard to get them loose.”
The “spaceship” was reinstalled 18 inches above the ground about six weeks ago by Public Works Director Tim Bowles. He built legs for it out of recyclable material, burying them two feet.
“I hope the children get many, many more years out of it,” Hutson said. “I think it will last 20 more years. It was well worth the effort.”