Lunar landing gets mixed opinions

Karl Terry: Local columnist

Forty years ago I was 10 and man was landing on the moon but I can’t remember if the historic nature of the event sunk in immediately.

We still lived on a farm and were a busy young family and to tell the truth I don’t remember actually staying up and watching the actual landing live on television. I remember watching the news coverage of it and the newspaper headlines and recall the excitement of following the progress of all the “moon shots” but I can’t remember the moment distinctly.

Maybe I was sent to bed early for some misdeed, maybe checking irrigation water pulled the family away. I can’t say and my mother says she doesn’t remember either.

I do remember how our teachers at L.L. Brown Elementary worked to get us fired up about the impending moon landing before school let out in the spring of 1969. They said it might be the most historic thing to happen in our lifetime. I guess they hadn’t reckoned we would be around to witness the deaths of Elvis and Michael Jackson.

I also very distinctly remember watching a film on the moon landing in the multipurpose room when school started that fall. After we watched the film each student received their own commemorative 45 rpm record — “The First Man on the Moon,” narrated by Hugh Downs. To those too young to remember 45 records they were kinda like CDs except the scratches were a lot more audible. I don’t guess I know what became of that commemorative record either.

My wife, however, has good recall of where she was when man first landed on the moon: a hotel room in Dallas where her family, which owned a furniture and appliance store, was staying while attending the annual furniture market.

Her family was extremely religious and during that time in their lives didn’t believe having a television in the home was very wholesome. My wife said she and her brother were delighted to find out their room had a small black and white television and they were there as the landing was to occur.

Her mom thought they should all go to bed but her dad, realizing the historical significance, agreed to let them stay up. They went to a vending machine in the hotel for pop and snacks and crowded around the little set in the hotel room as news came that “The Eagle has landed,” from astronauts in the lunar lander on the surface of the moon.

She and I can both recall the different opinions people had about the news of the day in July of 1969. Some were relieved we had won the space race. Others were simply fascinated with the discovery and proud of the accomplishment. A stodgy few either insisted it was the biggest waste of government money that had ever occurred or believed the whole thing was faked on a secret film lot in Hollywood.

What may have started out as a presidential challenge to a nation in need of some national pride relieved Americans when we finally eclipsed the Soviet Union in the space race. It also sparked the technology that we take for granted today like satellite communication, computers, lightweight materials and more.

Four decades later, Neil Armstrong’s first words when setting foot on the moon’s surface have proven to have been right on the money.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Karl Terry writes for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at: karlterry@yucca.net