Olympian readers shared their memories of the moon landing as part of Reader Network. Following are excerpts of what they wrote. To join Reader Network, go to www.theolympian.com/readernetwork.
I was 16 years old, and remember watching the landing live on a black-and-white TV in our living room in Virginia Beach, Va. I felt engrossed in what was happening, and proud that day to have been an American. It was a troubling time in the country with race riots, assassinations, anti-war demonstrations and not much in positive news at that time.
For me, the landing on the moon was one, if not the most wonderful moments to have been an American during the period of our history. I am still proud we did it. One of man’s greatest achievements of all time.
Robert Geissinger, Olympia
I was on vacation with my parents on the Mediterranean in southern France. The hotel had a big TV and all the guests at the hotel came inside on this beautiful sunny summer day to watch the tube and see the first step on the moon. It may not have been U.S. soil but everyone was very proud of what the human race had just accomplished!
Dominique Bachelet, Olympia
We were glued to the scene in our suburban Seattle home, placing our 6-month-old son on a blanket in front of our new TV set with the admonition to “Watch this closely son, and try to remember it for the rest of your life.”
Bill and Lynn Hallock, Littlerock
I was 6 years old that summer of ’69 living in Boise, when Neil Armstrong took his “one step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” I can remember watching the event on television, my relatives all hovering around my grandmother’s huge Sylvania color consul TV. As he stepped off the Lunar Module, and began his walk, my aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother began to cry. My great-grandfather, who was born in 1893, and was raised on a farm in Minnesota riding horses and wagons was simply speechless. The other men of my family too, were equally awestruck. The only thing I remember my grandfather saying was, “well we did it.” When asked what I thought, I said oh, it was “OK” or something like that.
Months later, NASA promoted the space program with a national tour of the Apollo 11 command capsule, and some of the rocks brought back from the moon. Standing in line at the ADA County fairgrounds, I was growing impatient, and almost succeeded in convincing my dad to leave, until we walked inside the exhibit hall.
And there it was. The Apollo 11 command module.
Charred and scored from its re-entry, the command capsule sat there illuminated under the spotlights, with the main hatch open so everyone could see how cramped the capsule was. As the crowd milled around it, fingers pointing, what strikes me now as I think back was how quiet everyone was. The moon rocks were incredible. Grey, and pockmarked they didn’t look like gold or silver but they might as well have been. My dad had to drag me out of the exhibit hall.
As we drove home in our Plymouth Barracuda, my dad asked me, “Well, what did you think of that?” My response was, “it was the best thing I had ever seen!” and I asked, “when are we going back?” I’m still waiting, after 38 years since Apollo 17’s last trip to the moon and still ask, “When are we going back?”
Steve Abernathy, Lacey
In July 1969, Mom had taken me, my four sisters and brother (ages 6 to 17 years) camping at Scott Flats Lake in California. We stretched a 50-foot extension cord to the men’s bathroom so we could watch our TV, which was set up on the picnic table next to our tent. There we gathered, sipping hot chocolate, and while gazing at the full moon in the clear night sky, we witnessed that incredible footage of man’s first walk on the moon. It’s a memory forever etched in our minds.
Cyndi Gronka, Olympia
My Dad was a big fan of the “space race,” as he called it. He was unhappy when the Soviets launched Sputnik, and in great, good humor when the U.S. got Explorer I into orbit. I recall the cold evening we stood and waited in the backyard for Explorer to cut a trail across the star field of the Milky Way. Dad had grown up in rural Iowa, and had ridden a mule to get to school for several years when he was young, and later his older brothers taught him the mechanics associated with early automobiles. With that as his history, he was smitten with all things NASA. It was a wonderment to him.
Years after the chilly evening watching and waiting for Explorer, on a warm summer evening, he and I and several others sat in the living room and watched the moon landing. I recall he was completely transfixed by the events beaming to our little black-and-white TV. Great, good memories.
Shan Gill, Olympia
I was 18 and working at my first “real” job. Pumping gas at the Circle L gas station in Kennewick. Yes I pumped gas for drivers, all drivers for the same low price of about 17-23 cents a gallon. I was paid $1.25 an hour – minimum wage then. I took a small TV (B&W of course) to work, set it on the counter and saw the pictures of Neil Armstrong exiting the spacecraft in the late afternoon, it was sunny and warm – about 80. While this was happening the town was dead, dead, dead, no traffic at all. Everyone, but everyone was watching this. After a few hours traffic returned and it was all my customers wanted to discuss. Even today it seems an unbelievable achievement.
Michael G. Jackson, Olympia
The landing of astronauts on the moon was a realization of the start of the journey of the human species to the stars. Forty years is gone in a flash. The technology that made it possible we now take for granted.
We are on our way. There is no turning back.
Nick W. Bond, Thurston County
1969 was truly the Age of Aquarius; my son was born February 1969 – an Aquarian – the same day the 747 took its maiden flight. That July day, I remember holding my infant son, in the living room of our Seattle apartment and watching Walter Cronkite’s newscast as Neil Armstrong took his first step onto the moon’s surface. It was magical. What a summer, what a year, my son, the 747 and a U.S. citizen on the moon; I wish JFK would have lived to see his dream come true.
Linda Rae Alvarado, Olympia
In July 1969 I was a seasonal park ranger, working on the beaches of Santa Cruz County, Calif.
My recollection was the landing was truly momentous at the time, and it was the only little bit of positive vibe we had as a country in the context of the Vietnam War as an American image in the world.
My contribution to the Apollo mission was to have been a “blueprint clerk” for Douglas Aircraft in 1961-62, when Douglas had the contract for the third stage rocket motor for the Saturn missile (launch vehicle for the mission). My job was to make copies of lengthy original vellum drawings and firing manuals for the rocket assembly and engine firings at the test base outside Sacramento. Of course, the whole success of the effort rested on my 18-year-old shoulders at the time (so I thought).
The moon landing was the culmination of President Kennedy’s promise/exhortation to put a man on the moon, and our country did it – in spite of the technical, political, and financial issues the country faced. Good show all around.
Mike Beehler, Olympia