50 years later: The Town Line staff and volunteer contributors recall July 20, 1969

Neil Armstrong’s reflection is seen in Buzz Aldrin’s face mask as the two became the first two men to walk on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.

Dan Cassidyby Dan Cassidy
INside the OUTside columnist

On Sunday Evening, July 20, I was working in the Composing Room as a Linotype Operator at the Morning Sentinel. I persuaded the foreman to let me bring in a small TV set with rabbit ears to watch the spacecraft landing.

We were all amazed to watch Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin set foot and plant the American Flag on the Moon surface.

I am still amazed and when there is a full Moon, I always wonder if the American Flag is still waving?

by Gerald Day
Volunteer contributor

Where was I on July 20, 1969? Somewhere between Virginia Beach and Augusta, Maine. I was working for Army recruiting at the Norfolk recruiting office and I received my orders to go back to Vietnam for my second tour of duty. With 30 days to get there, clear post then get home and leave by military flight to ‘Nam, I had to many things to clear, which meant going to Richmond and back. While my station commander did that for me, I worked on everything else. Getting my mobile home ready and transportation set up with my station commander’s held, we did it only one day; unheard of in the Army.

To save money I figured I’d make my own tow hitch to haul my car back to Maine, I tested it near my home, and in about 200 feet it broke loose, which meant it had to go to the body shop. So much for saving money. I then left for Maine with our truck loaded and a trailer to haul items we would need right away. Two weeks later I flew back to pick up the car and was told that some mouldings needed to be put on. They told me it would take about eight hours. I told them to put them in the car and I would take care of it. Did it in 15 minutes once I returned home. I left for Vietnam on July 31.

Once I arrived in ‘Nam, everybody was talking about it (the moon landing). They were surprised I hadn’t heard, as I hadn’t seen any TV or listened to any news in weeks. Since I had personal issues to take of, I let the rest of the world take care of itself.

by Mary Grow
Free lance contributor

On July 20, 1969, my mother and I were living in the China Village house. My father was in Thayer Hospital after a stroke; he was to die a week later. Mother and I visited the hospital, spent time with Louise Tracey, Peg Darlow and Peg’s son Paul (friends who lived on Neck Road) and worked in the flower garden. Louise lent us a television set and we watched Aldrin and Armstrong walk on the moon from mid-evening until 2 a.m.

The Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles that day, too. According to Wikipedia, the Sox went on to finish third in the newly-created American League East with an 87-75 record. Baltimore won the division (the Detroit Tigers were second) and defeated the Minnesota Twins to win the American League, then lost the World Series to the New York Mets.

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee
managing editor

On July 20, 1969, as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, I was stationed in Southeast Asia, part of a six-member, elite CIA-supported, top secret, special operations unit. Our mission was to observe the troop movements of the North Vietnamese and report back to headquarters, where plans were then formulated for air strikes on the enemy convoys. We were working out of Vientienne, Laos, operating along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with occasional ventures into western and northwestern Vietnam. Spending lots of time in the field, it was sometimes weeks before we could get caught up on current events.

I had read of the impending moon landing, but lost track of time, not realizing what was taking place on this particular evening. Having been given a couple days of R&R (rest and relaxation), I was strolling down a street in Vientienne when I passed a shop selling outdated black and white television sets. As a way to entice people to consider purchasing a set, they had them lined up in the storefront window, with all of them turned on. A crowd had gathered in front of the store, so I went to see what was so riveting on the TV sets. That is when I saw U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the moon.

A little sense of pride rushed through me at the time, proud to be an American. We not only beat the Russians to the moon, but fulfilled the dream of the late President John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon during the decade of the 1960s.

Emily Catesby Emily Cates
Garden Works columnist

Since I wasn’t around in 1969, I thought I’d ask my dad. He said:

“So, as I recall, I was at home in Wrentham Massachusetts, on summer break after my freshman year at Yale University. I was a great fan of the Apollo program, having dreamt about being a space traveler ever since reading Tom Swift novels during my preteen years.

“I was glued to the television set for hours that day, and especially sitting on the edge of my seat as Neil Armstrong guided the lunar lander the last several hundred feet with barely a few pounds of rocket fuel left. I watched every second of live video from the moon and upon return to earth that I could.

“The last time I can recall in my life being so glued to the television set was during the coverage of the Kennedy assassination only 5-1/2 years earlier.

“How ironic in hindsight! President Kennedy had been such an inspirational leader for space exploration and the Apollo landing has to be regarded as a crowning achievement in his legacy.

“And yet, the very same weekend that Apollo 11 landed on the moon was at the same time a terrible stain on the Kennedy family legacy, since younger brother Edward ended up driving his car off the side of the bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, in Cape Cod, and killing his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne.”

by Eric W. Austin
The Town Line webmaster, columnist and investigative reporter

Being of the generation born after the moon landing and an avid connoisseur of conspiracy theories, I first delved into this important event with the idea that the whole thing had been mocked up by Stanley Kubrick and Richard Nixon. Like most conspiracy theories, however, it fell apart under further scrutiny, and I was left only with my admiration for the courageous men and women who made it possible. It was an achievement that fueled the imaginations of millions of people from around the world, and I can only hope to be around for mankind’s next giant step, Mars. Onward ho, my fellow Americans. To Mars and beyond!


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