Bunker, campsite, scout jamboree: Readers recall where they watched Armstrong's first step on moon
What to watch: live TV coverage of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, or your cat Blackie having kittens?
That dilemma faced a quartet of Palatine kids whose story was included in the (not yet daily) Herald on July 22, 1969, two days after Armstrong's history-making achievement.
The New York Times says some 600 million people worldwide, a fifth of the world's population, watched live TV coverage of Armstrong's "small step" onto the moon. John Irwin, who was 8, thinks he was one of them, thanks to both the moon mission and the kitten birth progressing at a fairly slow pace.
While he remembers devoting his attention to Armstrong, the delivery of kittens "kind of takes your attention away."
A picture of his brother Jim holding the three tiny animals -- named after the Apollo astronauts -- made Page 1 50 years ago. And retelling of the story became a familiar part of family lore.
Many other Daily Herald readers recall watching that Sunday evening in 1969 as the first human stepped onto a celestial body other than our own.
Here are some of their stories.
Marine moon shot
Hot summer in Chicago ... important stuff going on.
• Cubs are sizzlin'
• Apollo 10 just back from the trial run to the moon
• Last episode of the original "Star Trek" airs
I get draft inducted into the United States Marine Corps, Marine Recruit Depot San Diego. It's a sweltering summer in boot camp ... we are on the rifle range ... drill instructor kicks us out of the rack at zero dark thirty.
In our skivvies, in formation under the stars, we are ordered to wave to the astronauts on the moon.
-- Donn Byrne, Carol Stream
Two reasons to celebrate
July 20, 1969, was a doubleheader for us. I had been quality control manager for production of the Apollo radios at Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, working countless weekends and overtime hours meeting deadlines and delivering perfect-quality systems. That evening my wife Corinne (Corky) and I enjoyed our evening meal at the Flame Room restaurant in Cedar Rapids then returned home to find our three children and the babysitter watching the Apollo landing on TV. It was our 11th wedding anniversary!
-- Ronald Scott, Palatine
First draft of history
I was not alive when we landed on the moon, but found this original newspaper from that day in the basement of my grandparents' home after they had passed away. I just recently framed it and it now hangs proudly in my home in Round Lake.
-- Paul Ziemba, Round Lake
'We will never forget this'
I attended the Boy Scout National Jamboree in Idaho at the age of 13 in 1969 with other members of my troop from Baltimore, where I grew up. Our troop was the first to arrive at the Jamboree, by sheer accident. Thousands of Scouts watched the moon landing on two huge screens in a natural amphitheater in Farragut State Park. I remember being mesmerized by Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon, especially from our location viewing the historic event. While it has been 50 years, I'm pretty sure I said to the scout sitting next to me that we will never forget this moment.
The moon landing was a huge part of my "wonder years" that was captured so well by the TV show of the same name. It was truly a moment that anything was possible and provided me hope for a bright future.
-- Bob Irvin, Lake Bluff
Up past bedtime
We got our sons John, 5, and Mike, 3, in their pj's, made a sign, got the Kodak, to stay up and watch.
-- Karen & John McDonnell, Inverness
No TV, no radio, no news
I have no memory of the 1969 moon landing.
No, this isn't because of any mental problem. I was drafted into the United States Army for service in the Vietnam War and was in basic training during that time in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
There was no TV, no radio and no news at all for any of us recruits.
My long days and nights were spent learning information and military tactics from the drill instructors before being sent to Vietnam, where I spent 13 months trying to stay alive so I could come home again to my family and country.
-- Ronald Rupp, Buffalo Grove
Kids can say they saw it
My husband was working on his doctorate at U of I in Champaign. We spent several summers doing that, living in a small mobile home. My son was 3 and my daughter a few days short of 1 year old. We decided to wake them up that night to watch. Knowing they might not remember, we knew at least they could say, "I SAW it!"
They were sleepy and had no real interest in watching. They went right back to sleep afterward. My son actually remembers it. We knew it was something that was history in the making and it was a wonderful thing to witness!
-- Karen Schlabach, Glen Ellyn
Knocked on strangers' door
I well remember where I was on July 21, 1969. As a "summer relief driver" on a rail test car operated by the Association of American Railroads, I was sitting in the cab of my detector car listening to the broadcast of the events on a transistor radio. We were finished with the day's testing and tied up on a siding for the night in Van Wert, Ohio. I was going crazy hearing what was going on but not being able to see any of the things being described.
I left the car and walked down the street. It was a residential neighborhood, and I could see the glow from TV sets in a couple of houses. It was a pretty bold move for me to make (I was 18 years old, just out of high school), but I walked up and rang the doorbell of the first house, wearing my AAR uniform. I introduced myself to the woman who answered the door and explained the situation. She not only invited me in, but asked if I had any co-workers. I ran back to the car, then returned with my two colleagues. We were just in time for Armstrong's first steps. We stayed in the living room with the family for an hour or more. They fed us and gave us beers. I have never forgotten that evening; the moon walk and the hospitality of those complete strangers.
-- Steve Weeks, Mundelein
'We were transfixed'
Wow! How amazing that was! One of my best friends moved from Illinois to New Jersey our senior year in high school. Four years later I flew out to visit and it just happened to be "that day." We were transfixed. I will never ever forget that day!
Christine Kelly, Arlington Heights
Watching, while waiting
In mid-July of 1969 I was awaiting the birth of my son. It was very hot and I remember sitting in the basement of my small home in Roselle in an attempt to stay cool. As the days passed, newspapers and television coverage of the anticipated moon landing stoked worldwide excitement. I clearly remember sitting on the floor in front of our tiny black-and-white TV making paper flowers (for some reason a big craft item at the time) and watching all of the events leading up to the big moment.
I was very excited and remember thinking that my baby would have some serious bragging rights if his birth coincided with the epic moon landing. As it turned out, he was born on July 24, right about the time the astronauts returned to earth. As a result, I was able to watch the actual moment that Neil Armstrong took his "giant leap."
As we know, 1969 was an eventful year in many ways, not all of them good, but all of them historic. As a 23-year old, I didn't fully grasp the enormous significance of the moon landing, but I was thrilled by it all and so proud to be an American. (I miss those days.)
-- Marian Taylor, East Dundee
Still has "moon watch"
In 1968 when I was in the Army I was stationed in Germany. I was looking for a nice Chronograph watch. I found an Omega Speedmaster Professional manufactured in 1967 in the PX. My watch cost $96 and was part of the same series that was approved by NASA for all manned space flights. All of the astronauts on the Apollo missions wore this same watch. Of course, I didn't know any of this at the time. By the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing I was back from Germany and was coming home from a race at Road America, Wisconsin, and I remember the beautiful full moon while I was listening to the radio broadcast of the moon landing.
Fast forward 50 years, I still have my Omega Speedmaster Professional, which is also called the "moon watch." I wore this watch almost every day for the first 30 years I owned it and now I still wear it at least several times a month. This watch has been serviced many times over the years, and it still keeps superb time. Because of its great condition and rarity this watch currently has a value in excess of $10,000. Thank you, Neil Armstrong!
-- John Ruther, Lake Barrington
Siblings brought TV to him
I was two days shy of my 4th birthday and remember that I was not feeling well and was staying in bed. My older siblings kept insisting that I had to get up to see the television because this was a really big deal. When I refused, they rolled the television cart into the hallway so I could see it from my bedroom and watch the first man walk on the moon.
-- Chris Ernat, Lombard
An upside-down view
I was 13 years old when I watched the moon landing on our Zenith Color Console TV. The one major thing I remember was that the initial image of the landing was upside down, and the announcer saying, 'Right now there are billions of people standing on their heads!'
-- Will Pastor, Long Grove
The entire camp sang
I remember the moon landing well. I was 16 and working as a camp counselor at Camp Favorite on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The only place we had television reception was in the staff lounge. We ran extension cords and placed a small black-and-white television facing out from the staff shower window. Everyone in the entire camp sat on the ground in a semicircle, eyes glued to the tiny screen. There was total silence as we watched the first person walk on the moon in total awe. The next thing we knew our exchange counselor from England stood up and started singing our national anthem. In seconds the entire camp was standing and singing together.
It has been etched in my memory forever. Realizing the idea of space exploration was real and thus learning more about the universe and galaxy and its unlimited potential was very exciting.
-- Peggy Frank, Naperville
A black-and-white picture
I was telling my daughter a few years ago about watching the moon landing with my family. I went out to take a picture of the moon as Neil Armstrong was stepping onto the surface and went back into the house. I mentioned the black-and-white picture and she said, "It wasn't in color?" That made me feel old!
-- Kent Krenek, Arlington Heights
A famous birthday
I remember the moon landing well because it was my 10th birthday. I was in Scarsdale, New York, at my great aunt's house, and it was getting late. I remember hoping that somebody would step on the moon before midnight, so that my birthday would always be a famous date in history. It was a self-centered thought but I was only 10 and birthdays are a big deal at that age! I got my wish with about an hour to spare, and Neil Armstrong became my hero.
-- Jeff Reiter, Glen Ellyn
Heading to Vietnam
I'll always remember that day of the first man on the moon.
We were having a going-away party for my fiancé. He was leaving the next day for Vietnam.
Over 25 people crowded into the family room watching the historic moment.
We all sang "God Bless America"..... for more than one reason.
-- Cindy Ostapczuk
'Someone looking back'
In July 1969 I was a 19-year-old Marine Corps grunt, rifleman, in the northern I Corps of South Vietnam. Our company had set up a perimeter on a mountain top for the night. Word came around the perimeter that men had landed on the moon. It was a clear moonlit night and I remember saying, "There is somebody up there looking back at me."
--David C. Nyc, Elk Grove Village
Anniversary on the moon?
My husband and I were on our honeymoon in Hawaii when the astronauts walked on the moon. We missed their homecoming to Pearl Harbor by one day. Looking back, I think we thought maybe we would be celebrating our 50th anniversary with a trip to the moon, just kidding. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in Hawaii.
-- Ron and Florey Daniels, Naperville
TV in a bunker
I remember the first moon landing because I was at a place different from most people who were watching. I was in a bunker at an artillery firebase outside Ben Luc, Vietnam. We were watching on a battery portable TV with about a 9-inch screen. There were about five or six of us watching between fire missions. I thought this might lead to further explorations deeper in space by other astronauts.
--Gary Sieroslawski, Mount Prospect
Celebrated by drinking Tang
I was 13 at the time of the moon landing. Our family of seven was fortunate enough to watch the Apollo 11 launch live from as close as the general public could get. We camped out on the side of the road and in our car the night before the launch so as to be a part of this historic event. I remember milelong bathroom lines but mostly the excitement of the launch, being able to hear and see it live. We then checked into a hotel for several days and watched it unfold on TV while eating space food sticks and drinking Tang, just like the astronauts!
-- Christine Davit
Filming the TV
My husband, Glenn Mitchell, and I were both 21, as we drove home to my Mom and Dad's house in Mount Prospect from a visit with my sister and brother-in-law in Michigan. We were "glued" to the car radio as it gave us the details of all that was happening in faraway space. It was two weeks before our wedding. We pulled up to my mom and dad's house. We got inside to find my dad filming Neal Armstrong stepping down that ladder onto the dusty surface of the moon All of us were just so amazed and excited with what was happening on that TV screen! My mom and dad have passed on to Heaven, but I believe we still have that grainy film somewhere on a shelf in our home. My husband and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in August as we remember those historical times in 1969 when John Kennedy's inaugural challenge came to pass, that man would walk on the Moon before the end of that decade.
--Glenn and Judy Mitchell, Huntley
'Cheers went up'
I was nearing the end of my enlistment in the Navy on board a guided missile frigate. The ship's crew was supplemented with some college ROTC cadets. At the time of the launch we were en route from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor.
At the time of the lunar landing, I and many others were in the enlisted men's club glued to the television. A day or two later our ship was requested to station itself in one of the many possible capsule landing areas. The capsule landed in the target area, where the main task force was waiting. We listened to the retrieval over the ship's radio speakers. Cheers went up from end to end of the ship for the safe recovery.
The ship was dismissed from the recovery detail to resume course.
-- Russell Buckardt, South Elgin
"G.I." on the moon
I was in Vietnam as an infantryman with the 101st Airborne. We were returning to a South Vietnamese firebase after a night mission. Some South Vietnamese soldiers came up to us, pointed to the visible moon, and kept saying "G.I., G.I." It took a few minutes to realize what they were telling us. That was how our squad learned about that historic moment.
-- Joe Musick
TV at a campground
July 1969 while camping in northern Michigan ... I, my twin sister, brother, and parents joined a group of other campers who had gathered around another family's large camper trailer ... and watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon! The family with the trailer had positioned their TV so that we could clearly see through the trailer's large, open window.
I remember thinking how kind it was for the "fancy" campers to make a way for us tent campers to see this first walk on the moon. It was exciting and scary to observe that, and I felt concern for the safety of the astronauts who seemed so happy and fearless. Fifty years ago, I was just a teenager of 14 when I witnessed, in that campground, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Having grown up watching the TV series "Lost in Space" I was fascinated with this historical feat and impressed that space travel to the moon was a new reality. I remember the intensity of the moment ... and also felt the immense concern for the safety of the astronauts. "Now if only they can return to Earth safely," was on our minds. That night sparked excitement for what could come ... I and my siblings thought that we would all surely be flying around with jet packs on our backs before long!
--Diane Dow Suire, Elgin
'You must get up and witness this'
My birthday is July 19, 1959. I lived in Puerto Rico with my Mom. I remember hoping that the first man on the moon would occur on my birthday, but it happened one day later. Nevertheless, I was so excited.
I remember my Mom waking me up at 4 a.m. She said: "Wake up. You must get up and witness this. This is history, and it is important for you to see it on TV." I got up, and no matter how groggy I was, it was the best decision that my Mom ever made.
A year later, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins toured various places, and they came to my hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico. I went to see them. It was awesome!
Today, I work for School District 54, and have the pleasure of having three schools named after them. We call those schools the "Astronaut Schools." In fact, Buzz Aldrin visited Aldrin School not too long ago. Such a GREAT honor!!!
--Janette Peterson, Hoffman Estates
Tried to see Armstrong on the moon
My family was camping at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois. When everyone was watching the moon landing on TV, we were listening to it on a transistor radio in a Winnebago camper. One of the most memorable moments in history, and we had to listen to it on the radio and not see it on TV. What a disappointment not seeing the landing as it was happening. I do remember walking out of the camper and looking up at the moon and trying to see Neil Armstrong on the moon.
I thought after the initial landing we would be traveling to the moon all the time and eventually be living up there.
-- Linda Lodygowski, Arlington Heights
I was staying at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park. There was only ONE TV in the entire lodge complex, which was in a meeting room in the lower level. We went to this room several hours ahead of the scheduled walk on the moon and sat in folding chairs. As the time grew closer for the walk the bi-fold doors between rooms were opened as more and more people came to watch. It was fascinating and very emotional watching the walk on the moon. However, one of my strongest memories of it was turning around to see all the people in this now huge room with someone in the back watching the TV with his binoculars!
-- Barbara Yahnke, Naperville
The Moon landing was on my ninth birthday. My entire family were sitting in front of the television watching the news coverage of the event. I can remember being upset that no one was celebrating my birthday or paying attention to me. Eventually I gave in and watched the moon landing on TV. It truly was a memorable birthday.
-- Mike Louise, Arlington Heights
Moon walk elation didn't last
At the time Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module onto the surface of the moon, I was the physical sciences editor of The World Book Encyclopedia, responsible for editing the space travel articles.
I had been following the space race since it began with the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, when I was in junior high school. The fact that I had been preparing the coverage for the historic landing of Apollo 11 for many months did not in any way diminish my awe and excitement at what unfolded on the TV screen that July night 50 years ago.
Yet, World Book also covered the deaths of three astronauts in a failed Apollo test on the launchpad just two years before. So I realized that at any moment disaster could strike. But miraculously the Apollo 11 mission was a complete success. And I, along with everyone I knew, was elated and proud and even a bit boastful about the American triumph of being the first to land a man on the moon.
America's role in space exploration seemed so bright that, as this song lyric went " … we've got to wear shades." The first space station, Skylab, was already in the planning stages. What's next? Colonization of the moon? A mission to Mars? I saw my job at World Book keeping me running.
But within a couple of years, budged cuts canceled the final Apollo missions; NASA engineers and technicians were out of work. The 1970s weren't following the script we all had envisioned in 1969. And hardly a week passed without someone saying, "If they can send a man to the moon, why can't we ...?" That sentence ended with lots of great ideas, anguished pleas, or gut-wrenching problems.
Over the years, I too have asked that question about many issues and tried to make an informed answer. Here's my latest attempt. Sometimes there are challenges, like landing a man on the moon, that can be solved with massive amounts of money, genius, inspiration, people, and risk-taking. Plus quite a bit of luck. The Apollo missions remain a magnificent example.
-- Ed Booth, Rolling Meadows
Hopes for return to moon
I was in high school at the time of the moon landing, and had been a huge follower of the space program since I was a young boy. I remember being glued to our living room TV with my Mom, Dad, and brother on that historic Sunday afternoon. I seem to recall the coverage starting several hours before the actual landing, but I don't think we missed a minute of the coverage. When Armstrong said "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed," I distinctly remember looking at my Mom and seeing her have this absolutely amazed look on her face. The moon walk happened late that night and carried into early Monday morning. I was taking a summer school class, but my parents let me stay up to watch until Armstrong and Aldrin were safely back in the LEM because of how historic an event this was.
I've always told my family and friends that this was, and probably will always be, the most amazing technological achievement I'll ever see in my life. Just imagine -- the computers that guided the Command Module and LEM had a minuscule fraction of the computing power of the cellphones each of us use every day!
NASA had plans for a series of future moon flights at that time, and I guess I figured that missions like this would just go on and eventually lead to more involved exploration of the moon and other planets. That didn't happen, and that's a shame because so many things that make our lives easier today were developed as part of reaching the moon as well as the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. But, the world has changed dramatically over the intervening decades. Hopefully I'll still get to see another Moon mission -- maybe even a Mars mission -- in my lifetime.
-- Erwin Froehlich, Naperville
Space landing led to Prospect classes
My wife Anne and I watched that amazing first step on the moon while in our apartment in Palatine on our first TV set. I was studying for midterms while working on my master's at NIU after my first year of teaching chemistry at Prospect High School. There was so much excitement about the space program that the next year we offered a class called Space Science and filled two or three sections each semester! I taught that class and Aeronautics (added the next year) for the rest of my 16 years at Prospect.
I loved reading science fiction and science fact books all my life, but I never read anything that predicted that much of humanity would be watching the first step of a human on the moon on television as it happened.
Subsequent discoveries were covered in these classes; Space Science was never the same class as it was the semester before as I had to keep adding new material. Several years ago the New Horizons spacecraft went by Pluto, completing the exploration of the entire solar system. We've visited comets, other moons, all the major planets, asteroids and now two minor planets (I still think Pluto is a planet!). People are living in orbit on the International Space Station. And consider the discoveries by the Hubble Telescope -- this is an amazing time to be alive.
Special greeting to all my former students from Mr. Hugo, (now a Ph.D. in engineering) and thanks for enjoying the wild ride of space discovery with me back in at the dawn of the Space Age. I'm still teaching chemistry at Harper College and once in a while my students get a dose of Space Science as it relates to the chemistry of distant worlds.
-- Dale Hugo, Arlington Heights
Watched while in labor
I remember every minute of that day. I was 10 days overdue for the birth of my first child, and I was glued to the TV. I was in labor all day and did not go to the hospital until after Neil Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon. My Patrick was born on moon Monday in the early morning and his middle name is Neil, after Neil Armstrong.
-- Mary Ann Daehler, Antioch
Aided Apollo-Saturn recovery
I served aboard the USS Hornet from September 1965 through August 1968. During that time, the first Apollo space mission was launched on Aug. 26, 1966. It was called the Apollo-Saturn mission. It was a 93-minute, 18,000-mile trek through space, landing near Wake Island. I was aboard the Hornet at that time and was able to get some shots of the recovery. The Hornet went on to recover the Apollo moon mission with the astronauts, but I, unfortunately, was already discharged by then.
-- Jerry Turner
At the old ballgame
On Sunday July 20, 1969, my friend and I went to watch the White Sox play the Kansas City Royals in a doubleheader at old Comiskey Park. At some point during the first game, the famous White Sox 'exploding' scoreboard went off with lights and fireworks! But it was not because of a White Sox home run. Americans had just landed on the moon and the White Sox wanted to acknowledge it.
As I recall, the White Sox also made an announcement on the PA system and in "words" on the scoreboard. White Sox lead-off hitter Walter Williams had just gotten a hit before the scoreboard went off. We laughed and wondered if Walter thought they had set off the scoreboard just for his single base hit.
We could see a little of the moon too in the mid afternoon sky. A game to remember even though the Sox lost.
-- Michael Wells, Carol Stream
Cubs win, astronauts land
I was stationed in Fort Dix, New Jersey, with the Army at the time. My brother "Mort" Allin worked in the White House. As a die-hard Cubs fan, he wanted to go to the Cubs-Phillies game at the old Connie Mack Stadium and he invited me to join him. We stayed at a local Philadelphia motel.
The Cubs played in the afternoon (and won 1-0) and then we returned to the motel to watch the landing. It was incredibly uplifting during a very tough time in America, providing a short coming together of our country.
Sitting on the edge of a bed in a not-so-glamorous hotel was our vantage point for history!
I was fortunate enough to encounter Neil Armstrong two times in the mid-1980s on business flights. It has always amazed me that it seemed like I was the only one to recognize him, sitting by himself in coach. He was a professor at the University of Cincinnati at the time. I was determined to get his autograph and he stopped to talk when getting off the plane. Crossing paths with an icon was extraordinary.
-- Robin Allin Jr., Port Barrington
Going to Disney
We were at Disneyland and watched the moon landing on a large screen they had set up for the occasion. This was our last stop on our way to Taiwan, where we were going to live for three years. Our future news would be limited, but it was a glorious send off!
We knew this would be great PR for the USA in a race with Russia. We hoped this would improve international relations, and it eventually did, as evidenced by the Mir Space Station operated by international crews.
-- Judy Schieck, Antioch
Got engaged that day
I was very interested about the moon landing on July 19, 1969. Both Claire and I were watching it. I did not realize that day was the most important day in my life. On July 19, 1969, Claire decided to be my wife!
-- Dennis Erickson
Celebrated in Italy
Fifty years ago this month, I was traveling in Europe with friends. We were walking through Saint Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. It can only be described as a wave of information that passed through the crowd. When word reached us that the Americans had landed on the moon, we were overwhelmed with a deep feeling of pride and joined the cheering crowd in celebration.
-- Jo Ann Santercier, Huntley
Kept news clippings
This year is our 50th wedding anniversary, one month prior to the moon landing. We were married June 21, 1969. While we watched in our new apartment with rapt attention, we were just adjusting to married life, living together for the first time, and so we didn't think about much else. I did save the newspapers from that time and preserved them as instructed. I still have them.
-- Trudie and George Mergen
A gathering of pilots
About a year prior to moon landing day, I had returned from a year in Vietnam, where I served as an Army helicopter pilot. Upon my return, I was assigned to the Army Primary Helicopter School in Mineral Wells, Texas. I was commander of a company assigned to train warrant officer candidates to be helicopter pilots.
My company staff suggested we gather at one of the staff's residences with our wives to watch the moon landing. We all gathered and were glued to the TV with great anticipation. My wife was pregnant and was due to have our first child soon.
Since my staff and I were all pilots, as the time for the landing drew closer, our discussion revolved around the skill and bravery that it took for the astronauts to achieve such an accomplishment.
When Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, our cheering was almost deafening. Again, so many comments were made about their bravery.
A few years ago, I was at a conference where Eugene Cernan was the guest speaker. He was the last man on the moon. One thing he said stuck with me. When asked about the technological capability of the equipment that carried him to the moon, he said that their equipment was about the same as what we have in the dashboards of our present-day cars. Truly amazing!
-- Bill Dussling, Arlington Heights