My wife and two daughters were in a taxi cab, riding through the streets of Tokyo, Japan on our way to the airport after a 2-year military deployment. The driver had the radio tuned into the live events of the moon landing. When Neil Armstrong stepped out on the moon, he got so excited that we almost made a landing of sorts ourselves. It was interesting to me that people of other countries were so interested in the things that the United States were doing. This was similar to the Kennedy assassination in that you never forget where you were.
How well I remember that date; I rushed home from work to be able to watch the moon landing with my parents. As we sat around the TV, I listened as my parents told of all the great things they had seen in their lifetime. After John Glenn took his “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Dad and I went out to set on the front porch. Dad had his coffee and Lucky Strikes.
We sat there looking at the moon and Dad said, “I have been blessed in my life. I had a chance to see and meet the Wright Brothers (Dad grew up in Ohio) and know tonight, as I look at the moon, I realize that two men are up there looking back at us!” This is a blessed memory that I will cherish forever.
My dad, Donald Miller, worked as an engineer for Univac in St. Paul, Minnesota, and helped develop the computer system for the Apollo 11 mission. They spent many extra hours and couldn’t even tell their wives why they were working so much overtime. My mom worked at another place in Northfield that made the outer shield for the rocket. On Dad’s birthday, July 20, in 1969, our family of six sat together in front of our black and white television and excitedly watched the first man walk on the moon. What a huge accomplishment!
I was 14 years old that Apollo landing summer. We were at my grandparents lake house 30 miles north of Spokane, and the TV signal was weak. The black and white TV was small, with a terrible picture. We fiddled with the rabbit-ear antennae for a while before the news coverage began and hoped the picture would improve. It didn’t. We moved the TV to the kitchen table and that helped the picture, but not by much. It was maybe a 15-inch screen so between the small screen, being a black and white TV, and the poor picture, the news program could have been better. Despite all the difficulties, I remember the news coverage like it was yesterday.
The Blue Lake PA system announced, “Everyone clear the pools, please. Please, clear the pools.” The swim center didn’t close for three more hours, and I didn’t see any rescues under way as I walked the beach to my next station on lifeguard stand Number 7. People looked perplexed but started leaving the water. The announcement continued, “We’ll be broadcasting the Apollo 11 moon landing.” On that beach in Multnomah County, surrounded by emerging swimmers and sunbathers, quieted to the sound of lapping waves, the communal anticipation transformed into a communal roar, when we heard, “Man on the moon.”
In 1969, I was a member of the Summer Place Theater at Washington State University. We performed 18th century plays in a converted livestock barn. On July 20, as we were preparing for a show, cast members were excited about the upcoming moon walk, but disappointed that it would happen while we were on stage. Then someone showed up with a TV. The crew set it up on the stage apron and the cast, crew, and audience sat together on the bleachers and watched Armstrong take the first step on the moon. We cheered. After a few minutes the director called out that it was time to start the show. We opened the play “The Banker’s Daughter” 30 minutes late but the audience didn’t care. We shared history that night and I will always remember it.
In July of ‘69, I was in Farragut, Idaho, attending the National Boy Scout Jamboree. Overnight, 38,000 scouts became the second largest city in Idaho. On the day of the moon landing, everyone gathered by TVs, all over Tent City, to watch the landing. I don’t remember at what point during the broadcast, Neil Armstrong uttered those unforgettable words: “I’d like to send out a big hello to all my brother Scouts in Farragut, Idaho, attending the National Jamboree.” I stepped away from the TV, and looked up at the clear, full moon in the sky. I pointed and said: “Neil Armstrong is talking to ME, from the MOON!” Surreal. I tear up, every time I recount the moment.
On July 20, 1969, I was teaching first grade at Sylvan Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. The principal called an all-school special assembly to view the moon landing on a television set placed on the stage. I had my class go on stage to sing the following song: “We’d like to go up in a spaceship and some day very soon. We’ll fly through space a touch a star as we sail to the moon.”
Jeane Wirkkala Moksness
On July 20, 1969, I was in the air, on a flight from Portland to Los Angeles. I had been attending the 60th wedding anniversary celebration for my grandparents at Salishan on the Oregon coast, and I was heading home. I missed the whole thing!
Having a role in the Apollo program, it was important to me that my three young children stay awake long enough that night to view on television the first human steps on the moon. I kept them awake, so possibly they’d be able to tell their children and grandchildren one day that they actually witnessed this historic event — the most important in secular history, in my opinion. I then took them outdoors to look at the bright half-moon and visualize in their minds that they were actually looking at the event live, while explaining to them why the mission had to occur during a half-moon phase (providing shadows to distinguish walking hazards) — a great memory to each of them and to me.
It was a Purcell home invasion. On that Sunday morning after Mass, Mom and Dad loaded me and five of my siblings into the station wagon to go to Spirit Lake where my sister Kay was a counselor at YMCA Camp. On the way, dad heard on the radio that Apollo 11 was on the moon and Neil Armstrong was about to step into history. Dad wanted us to witness this tremendous accomplishment. He pulled into the Kidd Valley Store and went in to see if they had a television. We were then ushered in and taken back to the living quarters behind the store. We sat on the bed and watched on a black and white portable television. It was awesome.
A moon landing poem ....
To the Moon
I love you to the moon and back!
We say that, but fifty years ago,
they really did take it to the moon and back.
My roommate Charlotte and I
had just graduated from college,
each with a bachelor’s degree…
and each with a teaching contract.
The world was suddenly new,
the moon not so far out of reach.
That summer of ’69 we were full
of both hope and fear of the unknown,
excitement and nerves…
like the astronauts we watched
on the small black and white TV screen
at my parents’ home on Columbia Heights.
Charlotte had come to visit once before fall,
and we sat on the edge of the sofa bed,
staring and wringing our hands.
Faint voices and momentous steps
from the moon! They had done it.
Anything was possible. We knew we could fly.