Moon landing: Locals share their memories of that historic moment in 1969

Moon landing: Locals share their memories of that historic moment in 1969

Celebrating with Mickey Mouse

I had just graduated from high school and a friend and I took off on a summer trip to see this great country of ours at the age of 18.

First stop was Cal Poly, where I was going to pursue an engineering degree. While visiting there and looking at maps we made our first course change to include Disneyland in lieu of heading east towards the Grand Canyon, as neither of us had visited the castle since early childhood.

It turned out to be a momentous occasion in the recently revamped Tomorrowland, with hundreds and hundreds of people standing, squeezing side by side in every nook and cranny as CBS had a remote broadcast of the moon landing on a large TV Screen.

I can remember Mickey Mouse being interviewed, and was filled with joy and awe as Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. The technological advancements made during the Apollo and subsequent programs reaped so many rewards for the electronic and software fields.

Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not, that four years later in lieu of going back home to Marin County, I spent 40 years in the telecommunication business supporting launch activities at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Bill Thompson

Santa Maria

A summer to remember

1969 was the year that I turned 12. It was also the year that we got our first color television! The television was set in a large wooden cabinet that was the size of a very small car (okay maybe not THAT big), but it was hefty compared to current standards, and the colors were over-bright with blurred definition.

My mother was so concerned about possible radiation emitting from the new television that we were sternly reminded to "sit at least 5 feet away".

We were living in Bakersfield at the time and summer vacation meant going swimming at the local racquet club or riding our bikes to the park. But that day, we stayed indoors. We sat on the floor in the living room, our eyes glued to the screen, volume turned up. We even attempted to take a picture of the moon walk with our Instamatic Kodak camera but the reflected flash got in the way. When it was all said and done, we realized the entire thing was in black and white anyway. No color.

Even so, it was a historic moment to witness and suddenly, the opportunity of space travel became a reality.

Diana Larson Boltz


Looking up, and wow!

I was working for TRW on the Lunar Module Abort Guidance System (AGS), the back-up system to the Primary Guidance System (PNGS).

We had established a mini-control room in the basement of one of our buildings to monitor the mission and our system especially.

The mini-control room was equipped with a teletype to receive AGS telemetry data, the NASA phone link between Mission Control and the spacecraft, pertinent documentation and access to the company’s computer system. It was staffed by AGS hardware and software specialists during the mission timeline when the AGS was active: from preparation to separate the LEM from the Command and Service Module as a precursor to landing on the moon to re-rendezvous with the CSM after liftoff from the lunar surface.

I was present throughout most of the period, only taking a break while the astronauts were on the lunar surface. We were intensely following the descent to the lunar surface and when PNGS sent our error codes we held our breaths as we thought the landing would be aborted at any moment. It turned out that the error codes were deemed of no consequence and the mission could continue.

When Neil Armstrong took over manual control and started flying the LEM looking for a suitable landing spot and almost ran out of fuel, us and many at Mission Control in Houston again held our breath until he finally landed.

After the astronauts got out of the LEM and were doing their chores on the lunar surface. I left the building for a spell. When I got outside, it was dark and I looked up at the moon and thought to myself that we have two brave men walking around up there and how remarkably incredible an event that is.

Paul Melancon


A moment in time

I was 15 years old, living in Canada.

I was in Lumsden, SK, Canada, attending a week-long retreat for teenagers who played folk music at church.

We all gathered in a common room and watched on a black and white TV.

It's a moment in time that will live with me forever.

Lynne Smith

Santa Maria

Craps! Avoiding the gamblers

My wife, Wynn and I spent our entire teaching careers in Lompoc, 1970-2003. During the summer of 1969, working our second summer at Harrah's Club in Lake Tahoe before retuning to Arizona State University to complete our teaching credentials, we watched the landing.

At that time Wynn was a 21 dealer, and I was dealing the game of Craps. As the July 16 date approached, Harrah's made the unprecedented move of stationing large TV sets throughout the main floor of the casino, breaking with long-standing policy of "no TV."

I was assigned to a Craps table directly in front of a TV set, and my entire 4-man crew was excited to watch the landing. We decided to quietly keep the table free of gamblers at the critical time so that we could enjoy the historic lunar moment.

As usual, gamblers were attracted to a "dead" table and began to fill the spots and make bets, much to our chagrin. We asked the players to stop for 5 minutes during the special landing event. They refused. "C'mon, roll the dice!"

So, we ran a very slowed-down game, peeking through the customer's heads, and ignoring the snarling comments, and were rewarded with the show of the century.


Patrick Clevenger


History worth the drive

We did not have television in the house growing up, by design, but when the moon landing was scheduled for July 20 in 1969, my parents knew it was a piece of history that needed to be part of our lives.

We had just moved to our new home in the Imperial Valley, but they packed my brothers and I into the car and we drove the 2.5 hours to San Diego to our grandparents' house. I was 8, my brothers were 5 and 6 years old. I'll never forget all three of us laying at the end of our granddad's bed, chin in hands watching Neil Armstrong step out of the module and into the moon dust in grainy black-and-white, on the monster wood console television.

I didn't understand the impact, being so young, but I knew it was big. I'll never forget the image, and the electricity in the room.

Marga K. Cooley

Arroyo Grande

When fantasy becomes reality

My two older brothers and I could hardly wait for the Saturday matinee at our local theater. There we could watch our space hero Buck Rogers filmed in the late 1930s. He traveled through space while fighting off the evil ones. On our way home we laughed and talked about how impossible it was to travel in space.

Fast forward to 1958. My husband and I were working at Rocketdyne, Canoga Park. Rocketdyne was a manufacturer of engines that powered many of the shuttles into space. While working in an aerospace company, travel in space became more of a reality to me. During the early 1960s, I heard President Kennedy declare in a speech that we would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. That speech by JFK assured me that we Americans could reach his goal.

The evening of July 20, 1969, our family hurriedly ate dinner in anticipation of watching the moon landing. After dinner my husband set up our small TV on our outside patio. It was a clear night with a huge moon shining brightly thousands of miles away. Our glances went back and forth first to moon then to the TV then back to the moon.

As we watched Armstrong take that first ever step by man on the moon we began to clap, jump and cheer. My husband and I felt proud that we had been a small part of this historic event. That event still remains clear to me. Yes, it was a great step for man and giant leap for mankind. The Apollo 11 mission and many missions that followed made a great impact worldwide as advancements were made in all phases of our lives. It was during the evening of July 20, 1969, that my fantasy became reality.

Doris Wright

Santa Maria


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