Where Were You?

  Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin.

Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin.

By John King Tarpinian: On this day in 1969 I was at Zuma Beach.  Being only 15 with no license my father took a buddy and myself for a day of body surfing.  It was getting towards going home time and there was no parent waiting to pick us up.  This being just shy of the stone age when it came to telecommunications there were no cell phone and the pay phone was broken.  So there was no way for us to call home.  Turns out both sets of parents were glued to the TV watching the Apollo 11 landing and completely forgot about us.

Another group of people were on the beach and they had a 9” b&w battery powered TV.   We gathered around to watch the actual landing.  Of course, the battery died on us.  So I took it upon myself to “break” into a lifeguard tower in order to plug the TV into an outlet.  In reality I was able to lift a corner of the wooden awning door just enough to plug in the power cord.

At some point the parents remembered the kids were not around.  My father drove out to get us and we got home just in time to see Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

In honor of this day, each year I treat myself to a Moon Pie.  (Don’t tell my wife or doctor.)


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15 thoughts on “Where Were You?

  1. Sitting on the living room floor in front of a TV which, miraculously, worked just then, recording the audio on my 3″ reel-to-reel recorder from JC Penney. I still have the recording, but the machine’s long gone.

  2. In the den, gathered around the 19″ oval screen color set that took up nearly as much room as the couch. It was only a year old, so it was really good!

    Nowadays the smallest TV in the house is 25″.

  3. In my mom’s bedroom, which had the only television set we’d ever owned (it was manufactured sometime in the early 1950s). I was sick, so I got the bed, my grandmother was in the chair and my sister was on the floor. My brothers weren’t interested, so they were playing with their cars in the hallway.

  4. At summer camp, watching the landing and the walk with a handful of counselors; I had to get special permission (in writing!) from the camp director and my parents. I’d threatened not to go at all unless these permissions had been obtained first.

    What intrigues me to this day is: it was only me and three or four counselors; everyone else was happily sleeping away under the stars.

  5. At home, watching on a ~3-year-old ?Zenith? — B&W, but UHF-capable (which was why it was relatively new — remember when UHF was a Big Thing?).
    And 6-minus years ago, after Aussiecon 4, we visited the dish that brought us that show. Unlike the far-rural one that The Dish concentrated on, the one that was live during Armstrong’s step is not far from Canberra; it had been unused for some years (the current dish is much larger), but the visitors’ center has a nice little exhibit with a moon rock — and detailed diagrams of the real zero-G toilet: i.e., not the one from 2001 but the one that got a crude joke from Spider Robinson.

    @steve davidson: yes, that is very surprising. I remember classmates with transistor radios — and the teachers not objecting — during Mercury; I would think some of them would still have been interested for the culmination of the work of a decade.

  6. My parents woke me up so I could see Armstrong step on the moon. I was two months and a day old, but they wanted me to be able to say I saw it.

  7. I was five years old; it’s one of my very first memories. My older sister made sure that Cally and I were up and watching the TV in the living room. “Remember this,” she said. “This is really, really important. Remember this.”

    Happy birthday, Martha. I still remember this. I knew it was important, because you told me it was.

  8. I was 4 years old, and like Rob, my parents woke me up to watch it. I have no memory of the event. They told me later that I was very crabby and wanted to go back to sleep.

    I don’t think that I got to see any Apollo landings or activity live. I remember staying up to watch the final launch, but that was the one that went into a hold at T-30 seconds and stayed there for hours. I fell asleep before it actually launched.

  9. Watching avidly in the living room with my parents and siblings.

  10. We were at my gramma’s house. My mom very deliberately did not own a TV (although once a week we visited friends who would let us watch Star Trek). So we had three generations of SF fans—I had just started to read SF, though I was a few years short of the “golden age”—all gathered around the TV just boggling that this thing we’d all read about in stories was actually happening!

    I didn’t understand “cold war”, nor did I entirely grasp “space race”, but I was very aware that this was something that had never happened before. The coverage was a bit boring at times, at least to a pre-teen, but when the moment actually came, and Neil put his foot down on the surface of another world, I was as glued to the TV as anyone!

  11. At 2 years old I have no memories. Today was the first time mom & I talked about it. She borrowed a neighbor’s TV and watched the landing while my brother and I played in the sunroom. She doesn’t remember us showing any interest. I’m kinda surprised as we rarely saw TV. We didn’t own one until much later (~10 years old?).

  12. I was alive when Eagle landed on the Moon. My father says he held me up in front of the television to see it, but given that I wasn’t even three months old at the time, I don’t remember much.

  13. I was turning three. It’s my earliest strong memory. I remember having a sort of vague understanding that this was real and not like Star Trek. I was impressed with the weird slow-mo jumps the astronauts were making and imitated them, trying to figure it out. My mom asked what I was doing. I said “Dancing on the moon.” Periodically, on my birthday, she’ll ask “do you remember dancing on the moon?”

  14. Went across street to a neighbors due to their newfangled color TV to watch coverage via Cronkite/CBS, but ended up watching on our PhilCo black and white portable TV in the family room. I was 13 yo almost 14 about to be a freshman at Camelback High School in Phoenix, AZ.

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