A while back we wrote a July column entitled “The Hay Moon is Rising.” After it was published we were questioned by our usual quizzers (friends and family) regarding moon references, including queries about “blue moons” and “moonshine” and a ton of other “moon shots.” Then, like Sheldon says on the “Big Bang Theory,” there was a “Bazinga” one that gave pause, “Do you know what happened on July 20, 1969?” The questioner then added, “It was a red-letter day for America.”
It’s not okay that some “not in the know” don’t have the foggiest about the July 20, 1969 date, but regarding a no clue of what a “red-letter day” was, well, acceptable. FYI, in antiquity, red lettering was used on religious calendars to signify a holy church date, hence, important days being called “red letter days.”
For many of the 1960’s ilk, especially back in the day fishing buddies, trivia and down-right facts come to mind as these non-pathetic “products of the public school system” (Gene Hackman as arch villain Lex Luthor in 1987’s “Superman IV”), were the self-proclaimed nexus to the widely popular 1979 board game “Trivial Pursuit” and pretty much felt they fostered the long-running, multi-award winning television game show, “Jeopardy,” even though the original show was created by Merv Griffin in 1964.
As many of you probably know, having been around these trivia obsessed birds of a feather before the advent of smart phones people who were obsessed with “knowing” things, like the above-mentioned yesteryear fishing cronies, had to rely on remembered facts.
A good example of this obsession is the classic back-in-the-day fishing story of a dynamic fishing duo who when plying the edges of a secret Big Winnie bar with “yard bait” (night crawlers) suddenly hit the wall trying to remember a basically mundane fact. Obsessed, they ended up going from boat to boat on the “Big Pond” searching for the answer, to no avail, of course. When the story was aired around a campfire years later and youngsters asked why they didn’t just “google” it, the questioner and other innocent bystanders were once again “treated” to various and sundry “back-in-the-day” stories about how being deprived of easy access to information had “made” their generation and how instant gratification has “left” generations thereafter lacking.
Okay, July 20, 1969, 50 years ago, was, of course, the day American astronauts Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (1930-) became the first humans ever to walk on the moon. About six-and-a-half hours after the lunar capsule “The Eagle” landed, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Taking his first step, he famously said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The Apollo 11 mission occurred eight years after President John F. Kennedy (1917-63) announced a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.
To set the scene, let’s go back to July 20, 1969. As many secular “red-letter” type dates go, both the good and bad, those who were alive and old enough to remember will vividly recall exactly where they were and even how they felt. Sadly, this is especially true when remembering horrific events like in the tragedies of JFK’s assassination on November 23, 1963, the Islamic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York City or personal tragedies. Happily, wondrous events like our moon landing and blessed family happenings help assuage these calamities, both public and private.
For many, the summer of ‘69 (“Summer of ‘69” is also a song recorded by the Canadian musician Bryan Adams in 1984) has individual memories. For some it was the summer before going to college and working at Mickey’s Café in Grand Rapids where the daily special was hot beef or pork sandwiches with mashed potatoes for $1.25 or summer jobs at Blandin Paper Company or the mines. For others, according to the website, popculture.com, among the most fascinating facts of 1969 were the “Arpanet” (first internet, U.S. Defense Department’s acronym for “Advanced Research Projects Agency Network”), the top song was “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by The 5th Dimension. Movies to watch included “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Love Bug.” The cost of an “Aladdin” lunch box with thermos was 99 cents and an A&W “Frosty” was 25 cents. Notable books included “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. And, wonder of wonders, the craziest conspiracy theory was the Moon Landing was faked, filmed in a studio in Arizona by famed director Stanley Kubrick who had in 1968 produced and directed the strange sci-fi film, “2001, a Space Odyssey.”
Regarding the Apollo 11 mission’s conspiracy theories, here are the five most prominent: 1. There are no stars visible. 2. The American flag appears to be wavy even though there is no wind on the moon. 3. There is no “blast crater” from the spacecraft’s landing. 4. Someone else would have to be on the moon to photograph Neil Armstrong’s first step and no cameras are ever visible in any photo. 5. There are issues with the way shadows fall, suggesting there were several light sources like lights in a studio.
To further background, JFK said in his May 25, 1961 speech before Congress that, “By the end of the decade America would have a man on the moon.” The result was the “Apollo” space program and it was fueled by the genius of America’s brightest and most dedicated scientists. In mythology, “Apollo,” by the way, was the Greek god of prophecy, sunlight, music and healing.
JFK’s promise was fulfilled and although he was not there to witness his “prediction” and “choice” of direction for our nation, the world was, and it listened in wonder at various places. One of these such places was where a couple of 1965 high school graduates heard the play by play landing news. While sitting on calm waters of Bowstring Lake after landing at “Christie’s Resort,” they jigged for walleyes near the “Rock Pile” and listened as the incredible lunar module with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard landed.
As Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the lunar surface, do you know who was the unsung hero that stayed in orbit in the command spacecraft? If you know, you might be a “Trivial Pursuit” champion or “Jeopardy’s” new James Holzhauer. The answer is, “Who was the unsung astronaut hero Michael Collins?” Astronaut Collins was so important to the mission, but history has relegated him to the background of one of America’s greatest achievements. As unjust as that was, it did not reach the dismal degree Alan Turing suffered. Turing was the mathematical genius who allowed the WWII American secret team of code-breakers to decipher Germany’s “uncrackable” Enigma Code, shortening the war and saving untold thousands of lives. Sadly, because of the times, Turing was not only relegated to history’s shadows, he was scandalized for being a homosexual (term used back then).
Finally, as we look at the moon, let’s take to heart what the Chinese philosopher Laozi meant when he said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.” We here at Dimich Outdoors salute the many people and families who take that step, whether it be with a smile or a tear. Let us also see the moon for all its magical innocent glory and remember the children’s song lyrics, “I see the moon and the moon sees me, God bless the moon and God bless me.”
Nik and Rod Dimich are on the pro staffs of Mercury Marine and Ray’s Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids, Minn. Rod is also a pro-staffer for L&M Supply. To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column.