Remembering the moon landing

Karen Wils photo Tyler Rose tries “moon golfing” at this year’s Fourth of July party.

ESCANABA — Something was brewing in the summer of 1969.

As we Northtown kids watched the rail yards expanding by our homes, folks in Florida and Texas saw scores of workers heading to their jobs in “aerospace.”

President Kennedy had challenged our nation to send humans to the moon by 1970, and it looked like it could happen!

Many Yoopers had probably never crossed the Mackinac Bridge, let alone thought about going to outer space.

Television in those days was filled with shows about planetary travel like “Lost in Space.” Mom got my two younger brothers “Star Trek” pajamas for Christmas. My big brother Jim would acquire a telescope and developed a fondness for astronomy.

As nuts and bolts and switches and gauges were assembled by NASA, my brothers worked on go-karts, bikes and things a little closer to home.

In those early days of the Houston Astros, we played kick-the-can, marbles and sandlot baseball.

The weird thing about the Apollo 11 mission and the moon landing was we didn’t get to watch it with Mom. She was recuperating from a surgery, and I think we watched some of Walter Cronkite at my Aunt Rita’s house.

We were used to watching the beautiful night skies at our camp, but this was up close and personal. You could almost hear the crunch of Armstrong’s boots on the ground as he stepped off the ladder.

In later years I would learn how remarkable the first moon landing was, how the spacecraft landed with only 17 seconds of fuel left on board. It also came to light how many women and support people crunched the numbers to get our rockets to the moon to begin with.

As we kids tested our parents’ limits, so the space program would explore the unknown and exotic. Jacques Cousteau was unraveling the mysteries of the sea and people were joining together to promote the welfare of our Mother Earth.

More Apollo missions followed, as did the merchandising. Mom bought lots of “Tang” — orange juice powder, for your young ones — and even got the boys matching Man-on-the-Moon bedspreads. At some point we even got to try “moon ice cream,” a dehydrated version of the real thing.

Then there was Snoopy, the famous Charles Schulz beagle, in molded plastic wearing a space helmet and a space suit. I’m not sure where our little Snoopy toy ended up, but it sure provided many hours of entertainment.

Over the years, my relatives have had some forays into aviation and space history. My dad’s cousin “Pepper,” I learned, was one of Delta County’s early pilots and remembered coming in for a landing near Wells (Garden of Rest property).

My brother Mike and family have visited the Kennedy Space Center, and my brother Jim likes to take meteorology photos from his home on Washington Island.

In these hectic, argumentative days, it is nice to look back on a time when our nation truly came together. When we set goals and met them and took… “one small step.”

Where were you when a man named Armstrong walked upon the moon?


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles. Wils’ sister Lori Rose — whom Wils describes as the science expert of the pair — contributed to today’s column.