SO, FELLOW EARTHLINGS, WHERE were you 50 years ago today?
Some of you, I know, weren’t even a star’s twinkle in your father’s eye.
For others of us, it was a time of great pride as we watched on television the lunar landing by the United States’ Apollo 11 crew of Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, with Collins piloting the Columbia while Armstrong and Aldrin rode the lunar landing module (the Eagle) to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, as the whole world watched in awe.
“One small step for man,” said Armstrong, the mission commander, “one giant leap for mankind.”
I was thinking of all of that Monday night, as I drove home from an assignment at the Omni Mount Washington Resort through Crawford Notch, as the nearly full moon lighted the mostly deserted roadway and the mountains.
The night before, I had been at a friend's house on Conway Lake, where the wonder of the moon that we all still feel (and especially felt on that night 50 years ago) was aptly expressed by a 2-year-old boy who was a guest at my friend’s lakeside house.
As we ate dinner on the dock, the young boy excitedly kept pointing at the rising moon to the east on the far side of the lake.
“Moon! Moon!” he repeatedly exclaimed, absolutely amazed at what we older humans perhaps take for granted.
Seeing it through his eyes, given the coverage of the anniversary of the lunar landing that has been going on all week, brought a smile to my heart as I realized that wonderment is what led President John F. Kennedy to set us on course to the moon back in 1961, and which the nation achieved under the timeline that JFK had set for NASA.
Driving through the Notch on Monday, enjoying the lunar display, I had turned on my CD player, and what came on but a CD of classical music I had purchased the day before at the North Conway Public Library’s used book and CD sale. The tune that came on? Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”
My mind also started wandering back to the late Walter Cronkite of CBS News, who along with former ABC-TV science editor Jules Bergman made the space program so relevant to all of us. Famously, Cronkite was so moved at the moment of the landing all he could say was, “Oh, boy!”
He later explained that that moment presented him with an emotional challenge, as he had “just as much time to prepare for that landing as the space program did. Yet when that vehicle landed on the moon, that was all I could think of to say. I was speechless. I really couldn’t think of a thing to say.”
To see Cronkite speechless was really something else, since he was the “most trusted man in America.” Fellow broadcast journalist Ted Koppel put it in perspective, saying, “When Walter rejoiced about America landing on the moon, America rejoiced with him!”
At the time of the historic moment, my family was at my grandmother’s cottage on Lake Mascoma in Enfield for our annual summer vacation.
My parents made sure we watched the broadcast. We gathered around the cottage’s old black-and-white TV — the picture was so fuzzy and the tinfoil-wrapped, rabbit ear antenna reception so poor, that it left a lot to the imagination, but that was OK: It was beyond exciting. We had all grown up watching the space program and cheering on the astronauts, who it felt like had become part of our extended families through the ups and downs of the program.
Watching them on the moon made you proud to be an American at a time in the turbulent ‘60s when so much was tearing the country apart: the race wars, the Vietnam War, the assassinations that robbed us of the bright promise of JFK, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
It brought us together. As President Richard Nixon said in his phone call to the three astronauts, “For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one: one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”
So, as we salute that achievement of a half-century ago, take a look at the heavens, and see if you don’t also cry out in excited astonishment, “Moon! Moon!”
SCIENCE IN THE MOUNTAINS: I had the pleasure of attending a "Science in the Mountains" series talk on the lunar landing and America's space program Wednesday night at the Mount Washington Observatory's Weather Discovery Center in North Conway.
It was presented by education coordinator Mirka Zapletal of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center of Concord. Mirka said the center has an exhibit on the space program and the landing. Go to starhop.com for more or call (603) 271-7827 for more.
SUMMER SKIES, STARS AND MUSIC: Arts Jubilee kicked off its summer season Thursday night with a John Denver tribute by Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon. It was uncanny to hear and see how much Chris looked like the late singer, especially on “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Rocky Mountain High.”
It was kind of ironic, given that old-timers will recall the real Denver played at Cranmore's former Tennis Stadium in the 1980s.
Of the first Arts Jubilee concert of the season,“we were very pleased with the turnout,” said Bobby Sheehan, Arts Jubilee administrator, when I saw him at the show.
The food and ice cream trucks were also a hit. Next up on July 25 is the Duke Robillard Band for a night of blues, with Roy “the Skiing DJ” Prescott, host of WMWV 93.5-FM’s “Blues Summit,” introducing the band. Bennett and Perkins will open the show in the early concert.
THIS MONTH'S CHAMBER AFTER HOURS was held Tuesday at the Samuel O'Reilly House Bed and Breakfast, located across from the entrance to Memorial Hospital.
General Manager (and old friend) Matt Spofford gave yours truly and other guests a tour of the 1900-built building, which has attractive bedroom suites overlooking the Saco River. They also have a function room for small weddings and business meetings. For more, go to oreillyhouse.com.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY HELPED JEANNINE and Pete Levesque of Pete's Restaurant Equipment celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at Stonehurst Manor last Sunday. Wonderful turnout, and great food! The Levesques have been true community servants, and dear friends to one and all.
THE WEATHER could not have been finer for the 39th Memorial Hospital Open Golf Tournament, held for the first time at the North Conway Country Club under sunny skies Thursday.
Tournament co-founder/former U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff (R-N.H.), former co-owner of the Christmas Farm Inn in Jackson, was among the golfers on hand for the 18-hole tourney. Bill founded it with the late Lee Harmon of the Jack Frost Shop, after the seeds of the tournament were sown by the Wentworth Golf Club's Dave Hogan and Tommy Mulkern
I was fortunate to play on the Team Sun foursome consisting of Conway Daily Sun Publisher Mark Guerringue, Laconia Daily Sun Publisher Adam Hirshan and Conway Daily Sun Managing Editor Margaret McKenzie. Each of us produced enough good shots to redeem ourselves and add to the team effort. The course was in excellent condition, and it was a lot of fun, so kudos to Pro Kevin Walker, Superintendent Greg George and Ledgeview Grill chef Cheryl (Pettengill) Emerson and staff for a wonderful day.
Tournament chair Bayard Kennett and new hospital president Arthur R. Mathisen thanked all for their support and participation. It's a great valley tradition.
TOPPING THIS HOT WEEKEND’s agenda is the Mount Washington Observatory’s Seek the Peak today, with vendors at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road and Wildcat Mountain doing their Wildcat On Tap event, also today.
In entertainment news, the Wildcat Tavern in Jackson hosts Al Hospers and the Bradley Jazz Collective tonight ($30 admission — call 603-383-4245 for tickets).
Meanwhile, "America's Mentalist," Jon Stetson is at the Farmstand in Chorocua today and Marcia Ball is there Sunday.
IN HAPPY BIRTHDAYS, we salute one and all, including Elizabeth Graves (today); Mount Washington snowcat driver Slim Bryant and mortgage specialist Randy Guida (7-22); Taffy Case and Robert Straw (7-23); Alex Leich and Maury McKinney (7-24); the Sun’s Terry Leavitt, Joanne Fiore and Sharon Zemla (7-25); and Karen Glines, Attitash Mountain Realty/Eastern Slope Inn honcho Joe Berry (7-26).
IN CLOSING, we bid adieu to late Realtor and community leader Dick Badger and former North Conway Fire Chief Clyde Merrill, both of whom passed away last Saturday. They made this valley a better place.
BOSCO GATHERING: Also, friends of the late Paul "Bosco" Lodi, be advised that a celebration of his full and colorful life as a valley promoter, dad and former Gibson Center for Senior Services is set to be held at the Omni Mount Washington Resort on Aug. 10, notes Steve Burdett. Stay tuned for further details.