Several Niskayuna residents participated in The Daily Gazette’s recent “Moon memories” project, which asked readers to send in their recollections of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
Here are their stories:
I was at the Troy Armory watching a Beach Boys concert when they suddenly stopped the concert to put the landing on the PA system, which really didn’t go over well with some of the Beach Boys.
In fact, they were very angry. When the concert host reconnected the sound system back to onstage, it was all static and breaking up. Brian Wilson got upset and asked if there was anyone in the house that could fix the problem or “Is it too complex for your scientific minds?”
I was very upset with his attitude and the Beach Boys descended, to me, on the totem pole of my favorite bands. I was and still am very science-oriented and it was an experience that didn’t sit well with me — sort of like Trump not believing in climate change. Well, that’s another story for some time in the future.
— Joe Parillo
SHOUT AT THE MOON
The Apollo 11 moon landing set the direction for my entire life.
That night, when man first walked on the moon, I was at a friend’s home near mine in Tonawanda, New York.
Several high school friends and I were gripped with anticipation watching the small black-and-white TV image and listening to the announcer describe the miracle that was about to happen.
Could it be true? When Neil Armstrong took the last step off the ladder and said those famous words, I ran outside and looked up at the almost-full moon and shouted, “There’s a man up there!”
I was beyond excited, then returned to the house to see the TV screen again, then back out to see the moon. It ignited a tremendous passion in me to be a part of something that big. I was astounded at what the NASA team and our country had accomplished.
It was the summer before my senior year of high school and I decided right then and there that I would pursue an engineering degree in college so I could do something like those men had done. Four years later, I embarked on a very adventurous career as a GE power plant field engineer, traveling all over the world commissioning power plants to turn on the lights for people everywhere. I’m very thankful to this day for that experience.
— Tim Christy
Growing up in the 1960s, I became enamored with the U.S. Space Program, beginning with Alan Shepard’s initial Project Mercury launch in 1961.
Captivated by each successive mission, I spent countless hours closely following every manned flight as reported by my favorite newsman, Walter Cronkite. The culmination of those innumerable hours was realized in July 1969 with man’s first-ever lunar landing mission.
On July 20, 1969, I was at my cousin’s home — poised in front of the only color TV in our family — to view the live broadcast of man’s epic lunar landing attempt. Ironically, although most programming was in color, those first fuzzy images broadcast live from the lunar surface were in black and white.
Nevertheless, seeing the images of Neil Armstrong, soon followed by Buzz Aldrin, as each set foot upon the moon, were moments I will never forget.
I would say that the U.S. manned space program, culminating with successful lunar landings, was pivotal in motivating me to study engineering. This ultimately led to a long, successful career with General Electric.
— Michael Davi
AN IRISH TALE
I was traveling alone on vacation in Ireland and the Dublin hotel where I was staying at the time had on black-and-white TV in a common room where I watched the grainy images of the “first step” alone at 1 or 2 in the morning.
No one else in the hotel seemed interested. The spectacle and achievement appeared to have been greeted with greater much less fanfare than I thought it deserved.
— Denis Brennan
WAKE UP! WAKE UP!
No party, no barbecue, nothing funny or weird, just the family — three little girls, my husband John and I — gathered around our small black-and-white TV set in our den, full of anticipation.
John had set up a camera to take pictures of the event and got quite a few.
Today, the pictures are somewhere in my vast collection of photos but where, I don’t know. Perhaps a daughter has them.
I can remember how excited we were. It was like a dream come true. A human about to walk on the moon! I can also remember being so tired that I kept nodding off and John nudging me — “Wake up. He is about to step on the moon! Wake up!”
But best of all I remember seeing Neil Armstrong take that famous “small step.” What a thrill. I’ll never forget that!
Over the years, astronomy, space, science fiction, and the many stories and movies about space exploration, were important to John and me, our daughters and even our granddaughter, who today is an aerospace engineer.
Several years ago, a few of us had a chance encounter with an astronaut, then in his early 80s, who no longer goes into space. During his career he had been on four missions, two of them with the Russian cosmonauts.
We asked him if he missed it; he replied rather wistfully, “I think about it every day.”
— Nancy Walden
CHEERS … AND RELIEF
America in the late ’60’s didn’t go Party Central over events like this. It wasn’t in our national ethos to “celebrate” lunar activities, even of this proportion, with ancillary games.
We weren’t quite that imaginative yet. Besides, the moon landing was still
considered pretty serious stuff. We were more in awe, and thankful it went off without a major glitch (at least that we knew of). And since many Americans were convinced that disaster might be lurking around the next lunar corner for Armstrong and Aldrin, any real celebration would have to wait.
I remember July 1969 as a warm and muggy night so you had the hum of the air conditioner competing with the blare of the TV. The whole family was huddled in front of our color console, which didn’t matter much because this was the 1960s and all of the footage of the landing shots were broadcast in a very grainy black and white.
While I was only 13, I don’t remember any partying going on, at least not on my block in Mont Pleasant. We look back on this with nostalgic certainty, but back in 1969 the landing was far from any certainty. For weeks, we were all cautiously optimistic that NASA could pull this off. Most Americans were holding their breaths as the lunar module slowly made its descent.
It wasn’t until Armstrong actually took his first step on the moon that we all cheered, and then took a collective sigh of relief.
— Frank J. Ciervo
My husband was involved with the space program from its inception. The piece he worked on is on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
During his connection with the program, our family had the opportunity to spend three months at Cape Canaveral. Trial missile launches were frequent. Whenever a launch was planned for a specific day, the lights at the Cape would flicker on and off.
People would congregate along the beach to watch the missile go off. On one occasion, the missile was coming toward shore instead of out to sea. The test was aborted and the capsule exploded in mid-air. The broken missile pieces looked like July 4th fireworks against the night sky.
On the day of the actual launch, my family watched it on TV from our living room. I called the children in from play so that they could witness history. We heard the astronaut say, “Mission Control, the Eagle has landed. That was the signal to NASA that the mission was a success. My husband jumped across the living room.
Then the world heard the famous words from Neil Armstrong, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The space project was an exciting time in America for all those connected to it — there was so much energy in the air.
The sad note was that the young president JFK who made it possible was not with us to share another one of our country’s achievements.
— Mary B. McClaine
On July 20th, 1969, I was a camp counselor at Camp Arcady in Hague.
It was a sleep-away camp and we had been talking about the moon landing for a number of days. We had all the kids go to sleep at the regular time and then when it was almost time for the moon landing the fun began.
Everyone was woken up and the whole camp walked with flashlights in their pajamas to the main pavilion for this momentous event.
The excitement and wonder for everyone that night is a thing I will never forget!
— Sandra Wennar Kutil
More moon memories:
- Full moon: Readers share stories about 1969 lunar landing
- Guilderland man’s idea helped NASA, Apollo 11 reach the moon
- Moon campers: Readers share lunar memories made at campsites