You know I have talked several times about my family coming together as a family. It is true that we got together often and enjoyed each time immensely. I have covered holidays, and reunions and even birthdays, but there is one gathering that stands out much more than any I have spoken of before.
The date was July 20th in the year 1969. President John Kennedy had said that by the end of the decade we would put a man on the moon. On this date we were going to try to fulfill his promise. Our space program had put man into space and even had man orbit the earth and continued to expand the limits that could be achieved. So on this day we were preparing to put a man on the moon. Just speaking the sentence was going beyond any and all expectations the world could have thought of. But a couple of days before this NASA had launched three men into space and on their way to the moon.
So on this Sunday evening all the hopes the United States had worked to accomplish would be seen to the world. So my mom seeing that this was of great importance and a large piece of history decided to use this as a way of gathering family together not only to watch the event but to get together another time. Since we had a new color RCA television mom invited Aunt Margaret and Uncle Charles Hetterick and their children. (Eddie and Bob were at 4 h camp so only 4 of the children were there.) Cousin Tom Houser and Lydia and their 4 children were up to their farm and only had a portable black and white TV with them. So she invited all of them. Also my sister Peg was home for the weekend and there were mom dad and myself. A small gathering of fifteen by our standards but good on a short notice and a Sunday night.
The departure of the craft to land on the moon from the larger one and all the details that took place took all Sunday evening and into the early A M hours for a conclusion. So what were we to do? As is a family tradition we ate. Aunt Margaret brought a fresh cake. Lydia brought a freshly made snack called ‘nuts and bolts” which were delicious and hard to stop eating once you began. Mom splurged and opened several bottles of Pepsi and of course a large pitcher of iced tea. Also she had popped corn and opened some potato chips. To say the least we weren’t going to go dry or hungry.
In the early part of the evening we watched the T V and talked about news more to our area and the people we knew. The kids were all revved up as they were told they were witnessing history in the making. Even though they were they really didn’t know what they were going to see. No matter to them they were just having fun being with each other and playing and eating all on a Sunday evening. But as the evening moved onward to midnight their eyes began to grow droopy and one by one they found a spot to lay down and curl up to go to sleep.
As the evening moved onward slowly but with moment by moment detail from the announcers we all became more focused on the television screen and less on conversations. When the capsule landed on the surface of the moon we all drew a breath of relief. Thinking that what we had all gathered for was going to happen soon. We were wrong. This was the first trip of this type and every safety step to be sure our astronauts were safe was taken. So as each detail was carried out we all grew closer as to our observations. We of course wanted them to be safe but couldn’t they just hurry up?
Tom had to get up very early and go to work in a post office in Cincinnati and Uncle Charles had to rise early and run the mail route for our local post office. But even though they were tired they weren’t going to miss what was to be history.
Finally about 1:30 AM a camera focused on the side of the capsule and in a fuzzy picture allowed us all to watch in what might be the greatest silence I can recall. Neil Armstrong descend the ladder and then turn and took a step onto the surface of the moon. At that moment he stopped and spoke out “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A quote we have all heard a thousand times since but let me tell you that when I heard him I went speechless! We all cheered and smiled with great relief. As the astronauts were carrying out their mission we were completing ours. We as a family had gathered to see history made and we accomplished just that and we also had some good food and drinks along the way. (Also some juicy gossip.)
As we all finished our historic evening each family slowly gathered up their children who had fallen asleep and headed to the door still talking of the main event. We all were so proud of our astronauts and the country that had developed such a program that could make it all possible. America! How great we were!
Years have passed since that night but I do recall that my mom created the need for us to all come together. Sure there was a historic event and yes it would be ok if all wanted to watch it on our new color television. Who wouldn’t want to see all this without the state of the art equipment such as color TV? This is years later when telling of us all gathering that it came to me. What color was the moon? Why it is black and white! So a color television really played no role in this. I laughed at the huge oversight we all made. Maybe we did know or maybe we all just wanted to be together to enjoy the event and each other. All I know is we enjoyed that evening!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.