We asked our readers to share their memories of Apollo 11 and man's first walk on the moon.
Hers are some of the memories of July 20, 1969.
NASA was like family
In remembering the moonwalk, I recall how much President Kennedy wanted to go to the moon. So much so that he helped us believe that we could get there. To start, we had to gather information that would help us build a spacecraft. The Russians sent up their Sputnik. They used dogs instead of humans when they first went up. Sputnik looked like a satellite passing over us. It gave me a strange feeling to see it.
So we really were in a race to see who would get to the moon first.
We lived in Houston but we were both from small towns. My husband was from Sweeny in Brazoria County and I was from Bay City in Matagorda County.
One day it was announced that Joe Bailey Jordan had flown higher than anyone ever had in an airplane. Joe was from Sweeny also. When he landed from his flight, President Kennedy called him and invited him and his family to the White House.
I don't think anyone in that area had ever been to the White House as a guest. Joe Bailey's parents Dick and Mattie Lee decided they would go with him and his wife. There was such excitement. Everybody wanted to be part of it and they had offers to use someone's new luggage, clothes, even a fur stole. Joe flew in December 1959. After the trip to the White House, Joe had some leave and he came to Sweeny and they had a parade for him.
Then they have John Glenn circling the earth in his new spacecraft. He lived in the area of Houston and he and his family seemed like our family. I can remember how worried and excited we all were. At one time in his flight he lost communications with NASA. It was shown on television and heard on radio, so we all knew. Our hearts dropped. My brother-in-law said, "he has crashed." Then after a few minutes he was back. We were so relieved.
There were other flights before we flew to the moon. We had a fire in one and that fire killed the only astronaut I ever knew, Gus Grisham. We were heartbroken. Having someone die while they were on the ground made you feel like giving up, but it made them try even harder.
My husband worked for a small company on Velasco Street in Houston, Wilson Electrical Equipment Company. It was like working with your big family. Shorty and his wife Cecil built it together. Mr. Wilson backed a lot of inventors also, so when my husband and the other guys suggested that the company should try for one of the NASA contracts, he was all for it. They got a subcontract from the Martin Marrietta Company to build the switches and backup switches for the space ship. They had to clear a large area that would have the many file cabinets they would need and hire two women to take care of the files. Any company that worked on the NASA project was made to feel a part of the NASA family. This helped because there were many long hours of work.
NASA built a mock-up of the surface of the moon where they had planned to land and the astronauts practiced out there where it was built on Ellington Field property. We were allowed to go out there and see it at a distance. Our 5-year-old daughter's imagination was very active.
Then they had the blast off for the trip to the moon. Several people in our neighborhood worked for NASA. We lived on the south side of Houston near Hobby Airport. Those that worked for NASA had "squawk" boxes in their garages so they could have an ear to NASA chatter.
The night that they walked on the moon, my husband wanted our three children with us in front of the television. Our oldest daughter was 5 years old, our son was 2 years old and our youngest daughter was 3 weeks old. My husband said he wanted them to have that memory. I said that only our oldest daughter would remember. He said, "but she will share her memories and other people will tell them about how it was."
My youngest daughter recently had her 50th birthday and we are celebrating the moonwalk's 50th anniversary.
Back then, you could feel our country was all together working toward a common goal.
- Mrs. Alice Joyce Davis, Cuero
Remembering the landing, dad
On July 20, 1969, by 81-year-old father, Gustav Albin Swenson, a World War I veteran, and I sat in our home in the Olivia community in Calhoun County watching the moon landing.
He talked about all the amazing things that happened during his lifetime.
One week later he passed away and was buried on his 82nd birthday, July 29th in the Olivia Cemetery.
Each year as the moon walk is mentioned on TV and in newspapers, I also remember the last time I visited with my dad.
- Gladys Starkey, Victoria
Making history relevant
As an associate professor of communication at the University of Houston-Victoria, a course that I teach for freshman students is Introduction to Radio and Television. Last fall during a lecture on broadcast news, I showed video clips of how the networks covered famous events including the July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 moon landing.
For my students, most of them about 18 or 19 years old, the grainy old black-and-white footage of Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” was ancient history of little interest.
So I broke from my lecture and, to help them see how momentous was that first moon landing and bring the event to life, I told a personal story. “For my generation, the moon landing was such a big deal,” I said, “that I chose the tenth anniversary, July 20, 1979, as the date to propose to my wife.” With that, I could hear audible sighs from around the classroom. Now my students appreciated what Apollo 11 meant to Americans everywhere.
-Mark Ward Sr., Victoria
Preserved in poetry
In July 1969, I was working on my second degree at what was then Southwest Texas State University. I was enrolled in summer classes, and on the evening of the 20th, I was studying for a test. However, the events being televised from NASA soon lured me away from my books to a position in front of the TV set. I sat watching until after Neil Armstrong had made his incredible “giant leap for mankind.” When I finally tore myself away from the TV, it was nearly 2 a.m. As I was getting ready for bed, the following poem formed in my mind. As we all know, the landing module was called the Eagle. This is the poem I wrote within one hour of Armstrong’s walk on the moon:
The Eagle by Lynn Wilson
The Eagle has found its aerie!
A barren and lonely place lost in the starkness and beauty of the infinity of space.
So swiftly and so truly hath the Eagle flown, it staggers imagination at the surface he calls home.
The Eagle has led the way to flights among the stars, opening up the heavens; pointing the way to Mars.
The Eagle hath lifted man away from Mother Earth’s womb and has so gently landed him on the surface of the moon.
That night is indelibly etched into my brain, and I will never forget it! Thank you for encouraging me to remember that fantastic night.
-Lynn Wilson, Gonzales
Restoring pride in dark time
When the lunar landing occurred in July 1969 I was stationed in the Mekong Delta manning river boats and the outfitting and repair of them.
Our communication of the event was a delayed message over a military sponsored radio station centered in what was then Saigon Vietnam. It was a great feat by America although we felt we were a world away from the world we came from.
This was a proud moment for America, but America was bogged down in a conflict. The moon landing gave America a great achievement as it needed it to help boost inspirational uplifting to an otherwise dark time on several fronts.
American pride is waning again so let's celebrate our achievements like that event and restore pride in what America stands for and show our pride daily.
-Don Cook, Port Lavaca
Our moon child
As Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon on July 20, 1969, I gave birth to our daughter, Kristi Williams. Kristi graduated from Yoakum High School as salutatorian, received her PHD from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
We are very proud of our moon child. This was truly a memorable day for our nation and especially for us.
-Roberta and Dwight Williams, Yoakum