... Alpha's Origins - Known!

While all the physical evidence unequivocally confirms the found Alpha hero communicator to be absolutely authentic, a reasonable question is where did it originally come from.  Just how did it and six other notable props...

hero Medical scanner Garth remote Statosian weapon

... find their way together from the Paramount set in 1969 to a California memorabilia store in the mid 1990s?  The answer has significant repercussions, especially for the the "midgrade" P1 and P2 phasers plus the hypo that are still a part of that lot, along with the three props (medical scanner, Garth remote, and Stratosian weapon) that were sold off earlier and eventually obtained at auction by Paul Allen.  The identity of the man who dropped them all off at the store (which has long since closed) was not recalled.  Only one tiny clue was left behind... nine digits in the form of a Social Security number were hand-inscribed on the communicator's midplate (below).  It has taken considerable time and effort, but that number has been finally traced to the correct living person, and we have his story for you.

First it must be said that the individual's name is naturally kept from public awareness out of the usual respect for privacy, but for dialog purposes we will refer to him as "Harry."  Harry has no association with show business or our hobby, and hadn't given the props a second thought during the dozen some-odd years since he sold them.  Thus you can imagine his surprise at being contacted out of the blue after all this time and being asked the prying questions that we fans want to know about, so a gentle treading was naturally extended during our exchanges.  Now a successful businessman in sales, Harry has been graciously supportive of our efforts to put the final missing pieces of history into place, and what we've learned has also clarified some of our understanding of the post-show fate of many of the props.

After two combat tours in Vietnam straight out of high school, Harry returned to LA to attend college, and there became a huge fan of Star Trek; enough to even wear hand-made costumes to parties.  A good friend of his - we'll call him "Jim" - worked at Ellis Mercantile, a then-huge Hollywood prop rental company that has since shuttered its doors.  One day in 1969, Irving Feinberg dropped off some boxes with stuff from the cancelled show, and Jim, knowing his friend's enthusiasm, asked his boss if he could have a bunch.  "Sure" was the reply, and that was that.  So Jim, who later went on to work himself as a Hollywood Property Master, took seven items home (sans paperwork - no one cared back then) and handed them all to his grateful pal, who would then occasionally wear the props for effect on a Velcro belt.

All that Harry could find today from those early years was a few dark Polaroids that show us two things; he and his future first wife as fresh-faced twenty-somethings (with his features a match to his current business website portrait) along with some props that resemble as best as clarity allows some of the very props in question:

Wonderfully, we now have answers to a few pesky questions about the props.  The P2 originally came with its clear tip; when it later broke off is long forgotten.  The communicator's spinning moiré was still in working condition, and the yellow crusty crud on its Velcro was Harry's attempt at gluing a fresher piece of new Velcro to the old for better stick.  No other repair work, such as replacing any lost screws, was done to the best of his recollection.  As to why Harry put his SSN on the midplate, you old-timers will remember when the police suggested you tag valuables that way to make them easier to trace and return if stolen.  It's that simple.  In the mid-nineties he eventually got rid of the props and other artifacts from earlier chapters of life (a comic book collection went as well) when clearing house in preparation for a big move.  And yes, the gentleman expressed to us some all-to-natural regret in letting them go too soon.

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It is a given, what with the casual friend-to-friend early gifting of these props, that no documentation corroborates Harry's or Jim's story.  No one decades ago knew to sign off on each transfer of then-worthless used props, and employment records for Ellis would have been boxed, burned or tossed ages ago.  Instead we have just the plausible testimony of two distinguished professionals (one of them a Hollywood veteran) that links the past to today via some numbers fortuitously scratched into aluminum.

In searching for anything that sounded even remotely similar, we nicely found another Trek prop that also passed through Ellis Mercantile; in 2006 PIH auctioned yet another Stratosian weapon just like the one that came in Harry's little trove:

The lost early chapters of the Alpha communicator and the other six props have now been uncovered.  All that's left for the remaining four still with the anonymous west coast owner is their final postscript, which has not yet been written.

In conclusion, it seems reasonable to figure that the history of the props immediately after the show's cancellation is a lot more complicated than merely them all ending up in a Paramount dumpster with some getting rescued.  John Dwyer and Jim Rugg got a couple boxes, but so did the Ellis Mercantile company.  Two other boxes filled with phasers and Klingon items ended up as unwanted "door stops" in the office of Back Lot Manager Russ Brown, who later gladly turned them over to Paramount financial representative Henry Renshaw (note - nearly all the contents were subsequently busted and pitched after being played with by Henry's young children).  Finally we know that Gene Roddenberry kept a couple props that eventually got handed to various people over time.  All told, given the many more diverse avenues out of the Paramount studio than previously thought, there is good cause to hope that other survivors are out there not yet rediscovered.

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