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Full moon: Readers share stories about 1969 lunar landing

Full moon: Readers share stories about 1969 lunar landing

Recollections from that cosmic and crazy day 50 years ago today
Full moon: Readers share stories about 1969 lunar landing
Patty and Marc Schultz, 14, of Rotterdam, watch astronaut Neil Armstrong on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969.
Photographer: Gazette photographer Ed Schultz

Eileen Carson missed the Apollo 11 moon landing by one day.

As a "moon baby," Carson was born Monday, July 21, 1969. She will celebrate her 50th birthday on Sunday.

Carson, who lives in Clifton Park, learned about the lunar adventure from her mother and grandmother. She also found about the caper that was connected to her birth during the summer of '69.

Carson was one of the 45 people who shared their "Moon Memories" with The Daily Gazette.

The newspaper received stories from readers who were married, born or gave birth on or around the Apollo 11 weekend.

The newspaper's history department also received stories from people who heard the news at summer camps, concert venues and inside a baseball stadium. Others, who were outside the United States on July 20, 1969, wrote about moon experiences in foreign countries.

Here are some recollections from that cosmic and crazy day 50 years ago today.

​​PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Eileen Carson of Clifton Park holds a scrapbook of the Apollo 11 moon landing  Tuesday, July 16,  2019.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Eileen Carson of Clifton Park holds a scrapbook of the Apollo 11 moon landing Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

MOON MAID

I’ll turn 50 on July 21. My entire life, my family has called me the “Moon Baby.”

My grandmother and my mom created a “moon” scrapbook for me (I was the fourth of six so I’ve always been impressed there was time to create a scrapbook). I still have it to this day and cherish it, knowing the excitement they had at the time while making it and how thrilled they were about it.

My mom (Winnie Frank) has told me the story at least 49 times of the day I was born. I was born around 6 a.m. on 7/21/69.  She had three babies under the age of 4.

My dad was an NYC Police officer and was working all weekend. My grandparents came over on 7/20/69 to help with the other kids and to watch the moon landing together.

My mom was going into labor, but she was glued to the TV watching the news, watching the events of Apollo 11. My gram was begging her to please leave for the hospital. My mom didn’t want to leave, she didn’t want to stop watching. My gram was convinced I was going to be born in that tiny living room right into the arms of one of my siblings.

Being her fourth, my mother knew she had no more time so she agreed to go—hesitantly, but quickly. I came soon after and can't imagine how tired she was. What a night! Men on the moon and giving birth!

It’s been an honor my entire life to share milestones with Neil Armstrong and his crew and the entire world. Now as I approach 50 it’s the first major milestone Neil Armstrong is no longer here with us. That alone makes me more aware of my mortality.

As I turn 50, I marvel at all that has happened since I was born when the first men walked on the moon. I live without a pancreas; 50 years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. Fifty years ago my mom didn’t want to leave home because she wasn’t able to watch the news on an electronic device or the internet at the hospital.

Our world has changed so much, yet the things that glued her to the TV that day are still just as intense and important today ... mankind coming together to marvel or to offer compassion and concern, excitement and pride for our country, innovation and exploration. It’s all still relevant, just a different generation deciding what will be the next “giant step for mankind.”

— Eileen Carson, Clifton Park

"IT IS HIGH, IT IS FAR ... "

Being at Yankee Stadium the day of the moon landing was one of the most memorable and historical events in our family's life. It was Bat Day and very crowded.

Suddenly, the game was stopped and the announcement was made about the moon landing. Everyone stood up, some clapped but many were crying. A very emotional time for everyone. The patriotism that was shown was very moving.

— Matthew McDonald Jr., Glenville

NewsPHOTOS COURTESY OF SANTO AND ANNA GENOVESI
Left: Santo and Anna Genovesi couple married in Albany on July 19, 1969, and flew to Italy for their honeymoon. Right: Santo and Anna Genovesi now live in Guilderland.

THE HONEYMOONERS

We were married on July 19, 1969, in Albany. My wife Anna and I are originally from Italy, so we flew to Rome, Italy, the very same day for our honeymoon.

We stayed in the Hotel Delle Rose in Rome. There was so much excitement in the hotel and all around the city, because of the time difference. In Rome, it was actually Monday already when they landed on the moon.

We sat on the edge of the bed in our hotel room, hearing the TV blasting from our neighbor's room. It was very exciting. A great beginning to our 50-year marriage.

— Santo Genovesi, Guilderland

CALLING APOLLO

My son, Jim Longbotham, currently a teacher in the New Paltz area, was born on July 16, 1969. I remember:

  • His birth at Bellevue Maternity Hospital.
  • Several nurses upset they had to work that day so they couldn't watch the TV program of Apollo.
  • The head nurse asked several times, "C'mon now, four of you had sons. At least one of you should name him Apollo!" Sorry, no takers. None of us could see us calling out our back door, "Apollo, lunch is ready!"

— Mary Ann Schweikert, Saratoga Springs

EIN PROSIT!

I was in the U.S. Army stationed in Southern Germany on July 20, 1969.

My new wife and I were living in a tiny one-room apartment in the farm town of Senden.

It was a crisp, clear moonlit night on July 20 and my wife and I, along with a few other soldiers, stood in the parking lot looking up at the moon and listening to the broadcast on Armed Forces Radio. With our transistor radios glued to our ears, we listened intently as the lunar landing was described in depth.

It was such an incredible experience to listen and know that the moon on which we were gazing upon in Germany was the same moon on which one of our own American citizens had just landed. We started to shout and celebrate in those early dawn hours—to the dismay of our German neighbors—and we will never forget that feeling of joy (along with a bit of homesickness) and the sheer pride of being an American!

— Dave Gatto, Clifton Park

DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT

I was at the Newport Folk Festival. Back then, of course, we didn't have iPads or cellphones to take with us. However, the festival's organizers realized how historical this moment was, and they arranged to have two of the biggest black-and-white televisions they could find, along with two long extension cords, so that we folkies could watch the lunar landing.

A few of us gathered around the TVs and watched the lunar landing while some of the finest folk musicians of the day played in the background.

Several people have questioned this memory. A few years back, I spoke to Bob Jones, one of the then-organizers of the festival, at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference, and asked him about this. He corroborated this to me. He told me that he remembered organizing this. 

One further side note: The late George M. Low, former president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was the head of NASA's Manned Space Program. When he passed away, I worked in the PR office and produced a retrospective video on his life. I went through hundreds of hours of videotapes for that video. They showed it on a continuous loop at NASA at the time.

He had been charged by JFK to put men on the moon. Later, his son, David, became an astronaut. I worked for George Low when he was RPI president at my first job when we moved out here 40 years ago.

— Wanda Fischer, Guilderland

BAD VIBRATIONS

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, Niskayuna

THE NOVA HAS LANDED

I had just turned 17 and I got my license so I could drive at night. My father’s sister, Aunt Genevieve from Philadelphia, was visiting. She brought my cousin Becky from South Jersey.

I got permission from my aunt and father to take Becky to a Beach Boys concert at the Troy Armory. They stopped the concert when they were about to land on the moon. They brought televisions out on the stage and everyone watched while the Beach Boys played a long rendition of "Good Vibrations."

After the concert, we went to the parking lot and I had left my lights on. My car battery was dead. Luckily, my 1963 Chevy Nova was a standard shift and I got some guys in the parking lot to push me so I could drop start it.

We didn’t get home until after midnight and all of my relatives were waiting for us! It was a great night!

— Paul Kaczmarek, Delmar

LUNAR LOCKDOWN

I was on duty during a 12-hour night shift guarding U.S. Army prisoners at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

It was forbidden to bring a transistor radio or portable TV into the maximum-security cell block. So my memory of the momentous, worldwide broadcast event was merely locking prisoners into their cubicle cells that night, enforcing the "lights out" at 10 p.m., conducting hourly bed checks and waking them all up for their 5 a.m. chow.

As a civil engineer, I was disappointed. But as a draftee, I was happy not to have been assigned duty in Vietnam.

— Terry Olmsted, Clifton Park

NewsPHOTOS COURTESY OF PAT AND LOU GREGORY
Left: Pat and Lou Gregory toast at their wedding. The couple became engaged on July 20, 1969, the night of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Right: Pat and Lou Gregory, who will soon celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, now live in Saratoga Springs.

OVER THE MOON

I remember July 20, 1969, very well—it was the night I was proposed to!

Lou’s brand-new GTO broke down on the Mass Turnpike and we were towed off at Springfield. The apologetic Pontiac dealership would get the $5 part the next day but would pay for our tow and overnight lodging.

After dinner that night and while watching the moon landing, Lou asked me the BIG question. I said I needed time to answer – after all, he was a restaurateur and what quality of family life would we have?

By the following day, I said yes. And therein, knowing we made a great decision, began the saga of Pat (Schenectady High Latin/English teacher) and Lou (co-owner of Gershon’s). We're both retired now.

It was an unlikely pairing—Yankees vs. Red Sox, Democrat vs. Republican. We will celebrate our 50th anniversary in November along with our two children, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Thanks, Neil. Thanks, USA.

— Pat and Lou Gregory, Saratoga Springs

​​Alan SangiacomoAlan Sangiacomo

RIGHT NOW? REALLY? 

I can remember where I was and what I was doing during the moon landing like it was yesterday because something happened that I will never forget.

I was a 17-year-old kid that night watching the landing with my parents and a good friend. Just as Armstrong was getting ready to get out of the capsule and step down on to the moon, my friend announced that he had to go home right away because his parents were expecting him.

He did not yet have his driver's license so I had picked him up from his home earlier and needed to drive him home. I asked him if there was any way he could delay until Armstrong stepped on the moon but he said he had to go home right then.

We hopped in the car and as I was driving him home we listened on the radio and, of course, that caused me to completely miss watching it happen live on TV. He and I still chuckle about that now whenever we get together.

— Alan Sangiacomo, Guilderland

ONE WORD: PLASTICS

The evening we saw the lunar landing was charged with a huge degree of excitement. We had our 12-inch black-and-white TV tuned to whatever station Walter Cronkite would be on in Syracuse.

My husband and I were grad students at SU, living in married student housing on Stadium Place. Our first child had been born on May 1, 1969.

We were having a normal evening at home—and with great anticipation—were tuned to the reports on the TV.

I remember that at the moment the static-clouded, televised view of the astronauts came through, I was holding our infant son. It was dizzying to think of the future at that time. Mainly, I was thinking that I hoped he wouldn’t want to be an astronaut!

— Susan Spring Meggs, Rotterdam

RADIO DAYS

My memory of Neil Armstrong’s moon walk occurred not on Sunday, July 20, 1969, but on Monday, July 20, 1969, due to the time difference between America and South Africa where I was born and raised.

That morning, like most weekday mornings, my dad and I were commuting to work in Durban from the little town of Port Shepstone, a distance of about 75 miles.

He had the car radio tuned to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and of course we were very much hoping to hear the announcement that Neil Armstrong had touched the surface of the moon before our commute ended.

He did!

My dad has since passed, but that is one of the fondest memories I have of him—listening to that first moon landing together.

— Henry van den Heever, Malta

Tim and Leda Christy, during a recent trip to Brazil. Photo courtesy Tim ChristyPHOTO COURTESY OF TIM CHRISTY
Tim and Leda Christy, during a recent trip to Brazil.

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, Niskayuna

OH, YOU CRAZY MOON

I remember an evening back in July of 1969 when my dad woke up my mom, my two brothers and sister out of the blue around 4 a.m. He told us to “pack our bags, we were leaving on a trip to Florida.”

We all thought he was kidding and crazy but packed our bags and were ready to go. We all piled into our 1962 brown Chevy Impala and left our Schenectady home like thieves in the night and started driving south. We had no idea what was happening.

I was diligent to navigate with our map to direct my dad on our journey. In a few short days, we arrived near Orlando, Florida.

Somehow, we ended up on Merritt Island at Cape Canaveral—now called the Kennedy Space Center—to visit the command center and the assembly building where the rockets were built. In those days there were no restrictions or high-security measures taken, so we just toured the facilities.

We stood right in front of the roped-off command center monitors and saw what the engineers were going to be monitoring the next day for the launch.

The Mercury 7 was at the museum to tour and we were able to climb on the engines of some of the rockets. We went on a bus tour that took us a quarter-mile away from the launch pad of Apollo 11 before the launch. She stood there proud and ready to go.

The next day from our hotel room nearby, we watched the rocket blast off and hurtle into space from the black-and-white TV in our room. We went outside and could see the contrail from the rocket in the sky. It was a spectacular sight to behold.

None of us will ever forget that day in history.

I believe this was the beginning of my passion for flying and to become the pilot that I am today.

— Donna Hatch, Malta

MOON OVER NIAGARA

On July 19th, we were married at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in a con-celebrated mass (three priests, one of whom was Father Hubbard, yes the future Bishop Hubbard).

We had spent our first night as husband and wife at the motel in Fonda next to the Poplars restaurant. Sunday the 20th we drove to Niagara Falls and found a room in Niagara at a motel—the Thruway Inn. This was the year the "Falls" were turned off.

Being a new teacher, starting to teach history at Vincentian Institute, watching history was more important than—well, you know. After they landed and all was safe, the honeymoon continued.

The wife paid me back the next night. There was a beauty pageant the next night and I had to wait for her program, Fifty years later, good times, bad times, we're still here.

— Harry (and Sharon) Beck, Clifton Park

MAGNIFICENT MEMORY

For me, on July 20, 1969, the memory of staying up to listen to Walter Cronkite announce "Man on the moon" is as memorable as me being nearly nine months pregnant!

As a mother has to patiently await the baby's birth, which happened for me on Sept. 1, 1969. I patiently waited for that magnificent announcement.

I will never forget either event!

— Kathleen Monaco, Gansevoort

EXTRA CRISPY

In the summer of 1969, I was 19 years old, going to school in Boulder, Colorado, and working as a short-order cook at the Timber Tavern.

The place specialized in pizza, but also offered something I’ve never seen anywhere else: a hamburger-like sandwich made with a large sausage patty, pizza sauce and provolone cheese.

On the night of the moon landing (I was oblivious to it all, actually, because I was working so hard in the kitchen) the owner/waiter Joe rushed back to us and told us to come out quickly because our astronauts were about to walk on the moon. The two of us cooks headed out to the bar to watch the small TV they had there and saw it all unfold.

Everyone in the place was glued to the TV until I noticed smoke coming from the kitchen!  We had forgotten the four “everything” pizzas in the oven!

It takes a while and then some to put these together, as they have almost “everything” on them.  So Joe told the customers we would remake them and not charge for them. Joe came back and helped us, and everyone went home happy!  

— Rand Reeves, Ballston Spa

MERCURY TO APOLLO

Listened to the whole event on the radio. Was serving at the U.S. Navy Antarctic communication station in Christchurch, New Zealand.

July 20, 1969 was a winter Monday in New Zealand. The time of the landing was 4 p.m. New Zealand time.

I took a long ride out of the city in my 1969 Mercury Convertible and drove for six hours, listening to the whole event.

— Robert C. Kniese, USN, retired 

ALONE IN THE NIGHT

I sat up that night in a white and red leather chair in our den by myself and watched. We had what was probably our first-ever new television. It sat on a gold metal stand on wheels. The TV was a black-and-white model. The space race was a large part of our growing up. It was a don't miss event.

— Janet K. Irwin

VIVID NIGHT

I was nearly six years old and my parents didn't own a television set since children were to play creatively.

My dad, an electrical engineer and employee of GE, borrowed a small black and white TV set from work. Dad loved astronomy, owned a telescope and made pinhole cameras for solar and lunar eclipses.

I remember his excitement and mine as Mom, Dad and I stood transfixed watching the first moonwalk in a dark kitchen.  This memory is so vivid it could have been yesterday. 

— Melissa Engler, Schenectady

SOLDIER

My memories of the moon shoot are very vivid as I had to report for Vietnam on July 22.

I was at my parents home in Glenville and some neighbors had us over for a farewell picnic during the day and early evening with, of course. the TV on most of the day. We watched the landing on a black-and-white console TV and I think everyone held their breath when Neil Armstrong stepped out of the shuttle. No one knew what awaited him. It had to be like the explorers who first came to this continent.

Be it good or bad I will always associate the moon landing with going to Vietnam (not by choice).

— Dale G. Brown, Gloversville

INCREDIBLE!

I was 17 and had graduated from Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pennsylvania in June 1969. As we watched the moon landing that historic summer night in a friend's family room, we realized what an incredible achievement it was for our country and regretted that President John F. Kennedy did not live to see his goal fulfilled.

— Dierdre E. Klick, Schenectady

INSPIRATION

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, Niskayuna

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, Niskayuna

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, Niskayuna

KEY EVENTS

As I look back, the first moon landing was significant in two ways in my life.

I was in the U.S. Air Force at the time, stationed at Vandenberg AFB in southern California, the Western Missile Test Range. I was very involved in space, working as an inertial guidance technician on the NASA/DOD Scout missile system (SLV-1).

Our mission was the assembly, preparation, and launch of that missile—placing orbital transits in space used by the navy’s nuclear submarines to precisely locate them anywhere in the world (forerunner of today’s GPS).

The second significant event that day was the birth of our second daughter. My wife doesn’t have quite the same memories as I, but remembers my excitement when the televised landing occurred and Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

It’s hard to determine which event has had the most influence on our lives.

— Dave Bullett, Rotterdam

WISDOM

My maternal grandmother was with us all of my life. She was from the West Indies, she was from the island of St. Kitts.

In 1969, she was ill, she was bedridden. Her mind was alert.

Everyone was talking about the moon landing, we were telling her how great this was going to be.

She looked at me and then at my mother. She said she did not know why they were going to the moon, because when they got there, they were going to find Ripley there.

I said to my mother, the "Believe it or Not" Ripley. She told me to be quiet and pushed me out of the room. We were always told that old West Indians had pearls of wisdom, this was one of those pearls.

— Claudette Howard, Schenectady 

CHEERS ... AND RELIEF

America in the late ’60s 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, Niskayuna

COUNTDOWN!

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, Niskayuna

More moon memories:

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

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