In the summer of 1969, I was part of a high school group of about 20 students from Kenton that traveled to Austria and Germany for six weeks. We stayed with host families first in Kitzbuhel, Austria and then at a boarding school in Marburg, Germany. It was during our stay in Kitzbuhel that the launch of Apollo 11 occurred followed several days later by the moon landing. The moon landing took place late on July 20 here in the States, but it was already early in the morning on July 21 in Kitzbuhel. Most of our host families did not have television sets and so we were awakened early and taken to the local “grundschule” (primary school) so that we could watch this historic moment together. I remember that we were all crowed around a small black and white television set. Even though Kitzbuhel is located in the Alps, the reception was very good and we watched in awe as Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon and utter his now famous words. We clapped and cheered! The local townspeople who were with us joined in celebration and patted us on the backs, as if we had something to do with this monumental feat. We were never more proud of our country and the respect that it received from all over the world. A friend who was also on the trip recently sent me the newspaper clipping from the local newspaper. She had saved all these years and it’s fun to see the headlines in German. The headline translates as “the first landing of man on the moon.”
I was in Pirmasens, West Germany, in the U.S. Army as a SPC/5 working in a major communications center for Europe at the time of the moon landing. As a little boy, I lived on Benton Street in Wapakoneta and attended the Wapakoneta school system for 11 years, sharing time with Uniolopic as well. My faith in God, country and family means everything to me.
On that eventful Sunday day in 1969, I was returning to Elida from Michigan where the U.S. Navy Seabee unit I commanded was performing construction work at a camp area. I was leaving the camp site somewhat early so I could listen to the imminent landing on the moon on my car radio. I was on Main Street in my car in Wauseon when it happened. I was amazed that many people were on the street and not glued to their TV sets to view the landing themselves. At the very moment the Eagle landed I responded with several blasts of my car’s horn.
I was fortunate that my Seabee unit was able to participate in the welcome home parade later in the year that the City of Wapakoneta held honoring Neil Armstrong and the historic landing.
Norman E. Grigsby
In the summer of 1969, I was a 17 year old exchange student from Clyde High School living with a host family in Epe, Holland. My Dutch “father,” Willem Janssen, was the manager of a chocolate factory so a three-week vacation to the Italian Alps would be no hardship. Our trip took us to Bogliaco, a small fishing village on the western shore of beautiful Lake Garda in northern Italy.
In the very early morning hours of July 20, I headed to the lounge area of our hotel where a television set was already being watched by 40 German kids and their chaperones, two nice Belgian families, most of the hotel employees, and my family from the Netherlands. The excitement in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife!
I strained to hear the familiar low tones of Walter Cronkite (in English!) whose voice was barely audible behind the constant banter of the Italian commentators. When it was announced that Neil Armstrong had set foot on the moon, the room erupted in loud cheering and applause!
At that very moment, I, this high school girl from the small town of Clyde, Ohio, became an instant celebrity! A line quickly formed, and one by one, the very nice people I had been vacationing with shook my hand, hugged me, kissed my cheeks, and patted me on the back. I said to several friends, “But I didn’t do anything.” Their response? “You are American!” I will never forget the pride I felt for my country, and I will never forget the day Neil Armstrong brought the world together under one magnificent moon.
It was hard to believe that Neil Armstrong, from the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio was the first man to land on the moon.
My wife and I owned Wright Store, situated in the center of downtown Wapakoneta. Mr and Mrs. Armstrong shopped in our store on many occasions. They were very nice people. It was hard to believe that our town was the center of such a historical time.
In the days following the moon landing the town was filled with tourists who came to see our town, and to drive past the Armstrong home. The press arrived from many different locations to film and to interview local residents, asking many questions about their feelings regarding the moon landing and Neil Armstrong. Our store was very busy during this time. Lots of questions regarding the town and the people who lived there.
In the weeks that followed, Wapakoneta had a large parade to honor Neil. Dignitaries from out of state and Ohio were involved. Crowds lined the sidewalks and sidestreets. When the parade reached the downtown area, there was applause from the people to show their appreciation for this wonderful event that was taking place in our small community. Ed McMahon, from the Johnny Carson show, drew the most applause.
The people attending the parade were seeking anything to purchase for souvenirs. We will never forget the events of that special day, and the history that was made when Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon. ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND.
Don and Sandra Knarr
For three girls from Lima, Ohio, the moon landing memories start earlier than July 20, 1969. On Wednesday, July 16, 1969, those three girls, ages 13, 10 and 8, watched with their parents, Robert and Shirley Wolford, the launch of Apollo 11. The family got up early that morning and found a vantage point miles from the launch site on the coast of Florida. We wound up on a bridge waiting for the moment. We were near a strip of stores that had the glass on the outside of the businesses taped with masking tape. The store owners told us that was to prevent the glass from shattering during lift off. We had no idea what to expect. As we listened to a radio we knew the launch was near. All of the sudden the ground shook under our feet and people around us started pointing skyward. Off in the distance you could see an image in the sky. The 10 year old put her hand over her heart as we stood in amazement. Amazed that we just witnessed something so powerful, amazed that one of the astronauts was from Wapak … just down the road a few miles from our hometown of Lima, and amazed that we were there, as a family, watching history unfold.
As astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldren and Mike Collins made their way to the moon, we made our way back to Lima. Our mission was to get home in time to see the moon landing. We did just that. We watched together as a family in our living room on Grand Avenue on July 20, 1969, remembering a few days earlier we watched that spaceship take off from the Florida coast, a moment we will never forget.
As a teenager growing up in small town Wapakoneta, summer meant going to the swimming pool or watching a baseball game or hanging out with my friends. We would walk uptown to the camera shop to listen to new 45’s before purchasing. We would go to JC Penney to say hi to my Mom and her co-workers, or visit Zofkie’s to see the latest fashion trends. Murphy’s five and dime’s candy counter was always good for a quarter’s worth of cashews or getting to enjoy a refreshing cherry phosphate at “The Teddy Bear.” Summertime in Wapak couldn’t get any better than that! That is, until the summer of 1969. We found ourselves no longer just kids, we would always be known as “kids from Wapakoneta” hometown of Neil Armstrong, the first man who was going to be the first man to step foot on the moon. How cool! Everyone was excited to see the news media in town, as well as people from all over the United States. We would see prominent people and places around town being broadcast on television. We would see Neil’s home where he grew up, where he went to school (Blume High School) and where Neil worked as a teenager (Rhine and Brading Drug Store). We were proud Neil was from our hometown. As we watched the takeoff of Apollo 11, we were educated by Walter Cronkite as he explained what was taking place during the flight and the moon landing. Then late that night we watched as Neil took that first step. It was so unbelievable as we watched in awe. Prayers for Apollo 11 was continuous at the Armstrong’s home church and prayers were answered as the three came back to earth. Later, there was the “once in a lifetime” celebration and parade hosted by Bob Hope. It was a very hot day, with thousands and thousands of people lining the streets of Wapakoneta to get a glimpse of Neil and wave to him and his family. This was an event that will live in my mind forever. Neil Armstrong and the landing on the moon in 1969 changed Wapak. Neil became Wapakoneta’s Favorite Son, he brought pride to his mom and dad, to his town and to the people that knew him. I am glad that I was a “kid from Wapak” and will never forget that special time: The summer of 1969 in small town Wapakoneta!
Dolly (Madison) Sharp