July 20th is one of those dates that will always stick in my head. It's like June 6 or December 7. I always stop and reflect a little on these dates. D-Day and Pearl Harbor stuck with me because of my father. These dates were huge with him and there was no way I'd forget them after hearing about his experiences on those days, every year!
I suppose if you live through historic events the dates will stay with you. I'll always remember where I was for November 22, 1963 the same with June 6, 1968. Those tragic dates seem to get seared into everyone's memory banks. July 20, 1969 wasn't like that. That summer day 45 years ago was more of an exciting day for me.
I was always a space nut when I was a kid. Early on, I remember watching the adventures of Captain Midnight and he had a Skyrocket that he named the Silver Dart. He didn't exactly go into space, but that Silver Dart flew pretty high. Then there was Men Into Space. This was a show with astronaut Col. McCauley, played by actor William Lundigan, who's name was close enough that I thought we could be related. Anyway, this show had moon landings and space stations, this was the real deal, my friends. Then, of course, I had to have props. I must have had a dozen different Aurora models of space crafts. I had the Mercury space capsule, the Gemini and Apollo capsules, the Lunar Landing Craft, sometimes different versions of each. I remember trying to talk my parents into letting me buy the 4 ft model of the Saturn V rocket complete with the Apollo spacecraft including Command Module, Service Module and Lunar Landing Module. Hell, what kid wouldn't want that. Of course, I never got it.
Throughout the sixties, I followed what was really happening in the race to space. I would sit in front of the television as Walter Cronkite would explain what was happening. Not to mention he had every plastic model you could ever dream about. But, he would use those models to explain how the astronauts were carrying out their missions. He showed you how they would open the hatch of the Gemini capsule to perform the first space walk. This was fantastic stuff for me.
So, in the summer of 1969, I had to stay glued to the television as Apollo 11 took off on one of mankind's greatest adventures. Unfortunately, my father felt that high school aged kids should be out working for the summer. I did get a job that summer. I worked making sandwiches in a Lena Sub Shop on Western Ave. in Lynn. On July 20th, I was behind the counter working the evening shift.
Now, the way this moon landing worked, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin put the Lunar Module down in the Sea of Tranquility early in the day. Then, they sat there, waiting. What! You're on the moon for cryin' out loud! Open up that damn hatch and get out there. We want to know if there's green cheese there or blood sucking insects or big huge black monoliths. What are we waiting for?
Well, as Walter would tell us, they were to land then go to sleep for a while before taking the moon walks. However, I guess the astronauts were just as excited as the seventeen year old kid making foot long Italians at Lena's. So, I couldn't wait to get home and see this actually happen on television. One little problem for me was, I was the only one working the shop that night and I had to close up.
Now, I think closing time was 10pm, and the place had been very slow since earlier in the evening. I figured Tony Lena wasn't going to mind if I closed up early on such a historic occasion. About twenty past 9, four people walk in and stand there reading the big menu board and thinking and reading. Meanwhile, I'm tapping my foot looking at the clock. Finally, I shout out, "For Christ's sake, make a decision. There's people on the moon!" They walked out. I got home just in time to see that small step for man, which wasn't quite that small.
That was 46 years ago. I am really amazed that we don't have bases on the moon. That is what we were led to believe. It's as though we got there and that's it. Nothing left to do. There are those who believe we should be spending resources here on Earth. Make things better here. Yeah, well, how's that worked out? I believe man's destiny is to push the envelope, to explore the beyond. Somehow, I think ventures like the moon landing bring the human race together. Anyway, I thought it was fun while it lasted.