Another anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon conjures images for those of us old enough to remember. It was one of those defining moments when we all remember vividly where we were and what we were doing.
My family and I were camping at Myrtle Beach. The fact that we were sleeping in a tent was memorable enough for me because I had vowed after six months of living in a US Army tent during the Korean War era that I would never sleep outdoors again. But with three sons I suppose it was inevitable that they, in turn, needed to be introduced to outdoor living — including camping.
We were one of only two families in the campground that had brought along a television set. This, too, was interesting because I have neither understood nor participated in the logic of camping with all the comforts of home. Why not stay at home to begin with if “just like home” is your goal?
But my oldest son was a budding young scientist who would only agree to go with us willingly if we would bring a TV to see the manned moon shot and the eminent landing of man on the moon. We weren’t hard to convince because the whole family wanted to be witnesses to this monumental feat if, indeed, it did happen while we were away. And sure enough, it did.
Late afternoon on a Sunday and the third day into our camping trip, the module landed on the moon as we watched our little 10-inch black and white television under a canopy of coastal pines. My eleven-year-old would-be scientist had rigged aluminum foil and strands of wire around the picnic table and into the trees in order to snatch the distant TV signals. There was not much to see in the hours following the landing and Houston control had decided that the astronauts would rest for a few hours before exiting the landing module and the start of transmissions of live pictures. My wife and I convinced our restless sons that we had plenty of time to play a round of miniature golf before the historical moment of man’s first step on the lunar soil.
We were about 12 holes into the game at a course out on Highway 17 when the announcement came over the public address system that the schedule had been moved up and the astronauts were about to step outside.
All I heard were three “clunks” as each boy instantaneously dropped his putter to head for the car and our campsite television set.
Of course, there was a delay as with all government run activities and it was almost eleven p.m. before they finally emerged from the capsule. It was an auspicious occasion as we looked at our tiny television under the stars and could look up from the screen to see a full moon hanging above the trees. Being outdoors with a simultaneous view of both the screen and the real moon was awesome and the moment is etched in our family history.
With one of the only two TV sets in the campground that accommodated over a thousand campers, you can imagine that we had company as other campers joined our circle. It was exhilarating as we celebrated this American triumph with dozens of other Americans. As we were celebrating, one of my sons said, “Look Daddy!” as he pointed across the small pond toward several other campers looking across the water at our small television set using their binoculars!
Our group watched in awe as Neil Armstrong set foot on lunar soil and uttered his now famous words, “…one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind….”
The whole event was special as spontaneously the crowd broke into singing “God Bless America”. As the melody sifted through the pines, it was, indeed, an inspiring time as we were just coming off of the turbulent l960s when one would think that there was nothing right about America. The Vietnam War, riots, racial unrest, drugs, protests, and less than rigid living had soured many on our land.
This was a redeeming hour.
My family and I will never forget that night under the stars as our fellow Americans made history in the stars.
God Bless America!
While John Brock is recuperating from minor eye surgery, we are publishing updated chapters from his book: “Southern Breezes Whistle Dixie.”
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