A while back, we wrote a column based on one of the names for July’s full moon titled, “The Hay Moon is Rising.” After it was published, we were, of course, quizzed by our usual quizzers (friends and family) regarding moon references, including questions 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” moment, one that gives pause, when we were asked, “Do you know what happened on July 20, 1969?” The questioner then added, “It was a red-letter day for America.” As an FYI, in antiquity, red lettering was used on religious calendars to signify a holy or important church date, hence, important days are called “red letter days.”
For many of the 1960’s ilk, especially for back in the day fishing buddies, trivia and down-right facts might come to mind as these non-pathetic “products of the public school system” (Gene Hackman as arch villain Alexander Joseph (“Lex”) Luthor in 1987’s “Superman IV”), were the self-proclaimed nexus of the widely popular 1979 board game “Trivial Pursuit” and even felt they fostered the long-running, multi-award winning television game show, “Jeopardy,” although the original show was created by Merv Griffin in 1964.
Having been around these “trivia-fixated birds of a feather,” many of you probably know that before the advent of Google, 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 legendary back-in-the-day story of a dynamic fishing duo who, while plying the edges of a secret Big Winnie hump 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 they were asked why they didn’t just “Google” it, the questioner and other innocent bystanders were once again regaled with various and sundry yesteryear stories about how being deprived of easy access to information had “made” their generation and how instant gratification has “left” generations thereafter lacking.
July 20, 1969, 51 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. After taking his first step, Neil 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 further set the scene, let’s go back to July 20, 1969. As many “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 horror-filled 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 our 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 special was “hot beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes for $1.25.” For others, according to the website, popculture.com, some of the most fascinating facts of 1969 were the “Arpanet” (first Internet) was created, the top song was “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by The 5th Dimension, the movies to watch included “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Love Bug” and “Paint Your Wagon.” The most famous person in America was probably actor Steve McQueen. The cost of an “Aladdin” lunch box with a thermos was 99 cents, a Wendy’s “Frosty” was 35 cents and a Hasbro Lite Brite set was $5.66. Notable books included: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. The best liked late night host was Johnny Carson, the funniest comedian was Don Rickles and the funniest lady was Phyllis Diller. In addition, 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,” which has 88 minutes of no dialogue. Hovering over all of this, of course, was the devastating divisiveness of the Vietnam Conflict, which divided the nation into “doves” and “hawks.”
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 and move even though there is no wind on the moon. 3. There is no “blast crater” from the landing of the spacecraft. 4. Someone else would have to be on the moon to film 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 was several light sources like lights in a studio. To see how these and many other “theories” are debunked, simply look up the moon landing conspiracy. It’s worth the time, and you might even become one of them and then, in turn, demand access to Nevada’s conspiracy-heavy Area 51 and maybe even sign the 2019 fictitious Facebook petition to “see them aliens.”
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. “Apollo,” by the way, was the Greek god of prophecy, sunlight, music and healing.
Although he was not there to witness his prediction and choice of direction for our nation when it came to fruition, the world was and it listened with wonder at various places as it came to be on July 20, 1969. One of these such places was on a northern Minnesota lake where a couple of 1965 high school graduates heard the play by play landing news while jigging the calm waters of a mid-lake hump and listening on a transistor radio to the unbelievable unfolding historical events as the lunar module with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard landed.
Just so you know, as Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the lunar surface, guess who the unsung hero was who stayed in orbit in the command spacecraft? If you know, you might be “Jeopardy” champion material. The answer, of course, is, “Who was Michael Collins?” Even though Astronaut Collins was so important to the mission, history has really given him no cigar and has relegated him to the shadows of one of America’s greatest achievements like Alan Turing, 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 relegated to history’s shadows and then scandalized for being gay.
Finally, whenever 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.” Then, let us salute the many people and families who take that step, whether it was or is with a smile or a tear. Let us also see the moon for all its glory and then 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 of Dimich Outdoors are on Mercury Marine’s and Ray’s Sport & Marine’s pro staffs; Rod is also a pro-staffer for L&M Supply. To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: email@example.com. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column.