As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon, we thought it would be fun to share the perspectives of farmers and other IFT staffers who remember that generational moment.
Jeff DeYoung, IFT Publications Editor
It was July 20, 1969. My family was camping at Lake Okoboji, as we did once or twice a summer. I remember my dad saying we needed to go to the campground office and watch a man land on the moon.
I was 7 years old and had a fascination with space, as did most kids of my generation. The prospect of landing on the moon seemed unattainable, but here we were, about to watch the impossible become possible.
We crowded around a black and white TV with a few other campers, squinting at the small screen as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. A few minutes later, you could faintly see Armstrong start down the ladder, step foot on the moon and utter those immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Jane Thoresen, IFT Publications Design Assistant
Without giving away my age, I was a “tween” when man walked on the moon. Living on a farm in northeast Iowa, you did not spend a lot of time watching daytime television, but that week was different. Although we only had three major networks and public television, there was coverage from lift off to splash down and any moment not doing chores was spent close to the television — black and white, of course. Everyone was waiting for that first step off the ladder and wondering what would happen.
If you lived in the eastern part of Iowa you knew someone who worked at Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids, the company played a large role in the communication system on the mission. We happened to be one of those families as my brother started working in the commercial avionics division about a year before the launch.
Iowa in the 1960s was also free of light pollution. This gave the opportunity for star gazing, and we did some of this after Apollo 11. I am not sure what we expected to see.
Phyllis Coulter, IFT Publications Illinois Field Editor
As a child of the 1960s, a fascination with space was natural. In a rural Ontario, Canada school, the entire student body of about 250 kids, from first to eighth grade, would sit on the cold gym floor and watch a tiny, black and white television on stage to see real astronauts.
Of course, Neil Armstrong made his historic walk when school was out for the summer, so Walter Cronkite shared the news and photos of the moon walk in my family’s farm living room.
The excitement of space discovery lives on with the next generation as my son had the wonderful experience of learning and teaching at the National Test Pilot’s School in California this year, and has likely rubbed elbows with future astronauts who will surely discover new things.
Bill Tentinger, Farmer, Le Mars, Iowa
I was 20 years old and watched the moon landing in a barracks at Sheppard Air Force Base. We had people there from all over the country, and there was quite a celebration when we landed on the moon.
I remember the communication during the landing. It was patchy and there were a lot of pauses. We watched on a little black and white TV. I can’t remember if I ever saw a TV in the barracks except that night.
I also remember when President Kennedy talked about sending a man to the moon in his speech (Sept. 12, 1962), and I don’t think there was ever a doubt it was going to happen. We knew we were going to get there one day, and when we did, it was quite an event.
Grant Lochmiller, Farmer, Denison, Iowa
From the limited memory of an 8-year-old, I do recall it was on a Sunday evening. My grandmother and hired man were visiting as usual. My dad decided towards evening it was a good time to pick up some remaining little round hay bales — always a fun activity for me as we elevated them into the barn. Then we came in for a big supper and watched the first man walking on the moon on an old black and white TV!
Curtis Meier, Farmer, Clarinda, Iowa
I did not watch it on TV, but I do remember it. It was really hard to believe that landing on the moon really happened. That was beyond my imagination.
That was always a really busy time of year on the farm. We put up 1,000 to 1,200 bales of straw each year, and we had the pigs to take care of, too.
My best memory of the space program is the deaths of the three astronauts on Apollo 1. That was pretty sad, so it was really nice to see us able to get to the moon.
Morris Heitman, Farmer, Mound City, Mo.
I was 24 years old and had just got married a month earlier. We were just setting up our house and didn’t have a TV, so we went to my parents’ house and watched it on their color TV. It was really interesting to see and hard to imagine that we had men on the moon.
It was interesting how it was arranged to end up on prime time TV. That way everyone could see it.
I’m amazed at the technology it took to get them up there, and how it is compared to what we have today, especially with computers. It really was incredible.