In this Sept. 6, 1969, file photo, people sit on the roof ledge of the Auglaize County Courthouse in Wapakoneta to cheer astronaut and hometown hero Neil Armstrong, who waved to the crowd during a parade honoring him for his moon-walking feat. With Armstrong in the car were his wife, Jan, and son, Eric. Some Findlay area residents traveled to Wapakoneta for the parade. Armstrong helped put Wapakoneta on the map on July 20, 1969, when he became the first human to walk on the moon. (Associated Press photo)

By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
and SARA ARTHURS
Staff Writers

They tuned in at home, at work, on vacation.

They watched on television and listened to the radio.

They fed babies, woke their children, paused their work and photographed their TVs.

And they remembered.

Fifty years later, Findlay area residents shared their memories of watching the moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Many parents remembered watching the moon landing with their children, including babies too young to remember the experience.

Carol Troiano, who was 21 and a new mother, said she “celebrated it with my oldest son twice.”

She recalled giving her 3-month-old son, Greg Hickey, a bottle as she watched the moon landing.

“Fifty years later, we watched it together again,” she said, referring to a trip to COSI’s IMAX theater to watch an Apollo 11 documentary.

Pat Arnold’s twins, born July 3, were hospitalized after their birth, and July 20 was the day she brought the second one home. Then her family watched the moon landing on television. “It was a very good day,” she said.

Helene Murphy also associates the moon landing with a new baby — she had just had her sixth child. She said watching the moon landing on television was “monumental.”

Luette Feasel had young children at the time. She was born in 1929 and was 40 at the time of the moon landing. She said she couldn’t believe something like that would happen. It was late at night, but they kept the children up to watch the historic event, although “they didn’t say much.”

Jerry Gillan, then 38, watched the moon landing from his Findlay home with his 13-year-old son, Scott Gillan.

“He just thought it was the greatest thing,” Gillan said of his son. “He was just” — Gillan imitated the way his son sat still, with wide eyes glued to the TV.

With all the technological advances being made, and all of NASA’s hard work, Gillan had figured “something was going to happen,” just maybe not as soon as it did.

“When I think about it, I still see the light from the TV flickering,” he said.

Edith Easley, who was 29 at the time, locked in the memory in a more tangible way: She still has a picture she took of her television screen. “Well, it just seemed so unreal” that there was actually a man up there on the moon, she said.

Like Gillan, Michael Smith hadn’t expected it to happen as soon as it did.

He was a senior in high school at the time, and thought the moon landing was a “pretty amazing feat.”

“I would like to see them go back… And Mars is kind of interesting, also,” Smith said.

Diana Papagelas was a child and watched it with her family. She described it as “very exciting” and said, “We were glued to the TV.”

Not every child was excited to watch.

Shirley Young, then 37, watched in Findlay with her husband and her 11-year-old son, who was less than thrilled to be woken up for the experience.

Meanwhile, her daughter saw it at Camp Glen in Tiffin on “a little bitty TV that they all had to crowd around.”

Mary Martinez recalled watching the event on television with classmates. “Everybody was excited,” she said. Vacationers made sure they had a way to follow the moon landing.

Shari Banks was on a family trip to northern Michigan. They rented a cabin and took a small portable television so they could watch — but the only place they could get reception was up on a bunk bed, so the whole family crowded around it. She was 19.

She said she’s glad she got to watch it with her entire family.

“I still remember it like it was yesterday,” she said.

Rose DeVore was also on a trip, fishing for pike at Waupoos Island in Canada’s Ontario province with her husband and two children.

Canadians were closely following the Apollo 11 mission too, she remembers.

Her family listened on the radio — a “fascinating” experience, said DeVore, 32 at the time.

A trip to the moon was the kind of thing seen in comic books when she was a child. “It’s like it came true,” she said.

“I was nervous” watching the moon landing, for fear something would go wrong, said Sandy Rhodes, who at the time was 21 and on vacation in North Carolina. But, she said, she also felt proud of what society had done.

Some remembered the way the whole world seemed to stop to appreciate what was unfolding on its celestial neighbor.

Donna Orth said in Fremont, the streets were empty: “Everybody was watching TV.” She was 27 and happened to be at work, but said she wishes she had been home watching it on television, too.

Barb Lucio was a student working at St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. She said everybody who could stop to listen, did. And they were awed.

Herb Schneider was 43. He was working at the time, but stopped to listen to the radio.

As a young child, he couldn’t imagine men visiting the moon: “We thought it wasn’t possible.”

Barry Niswander said he was watching it on television and “I was really impressed,” particularly at the technology that was required to put a man on the moon.

He said when he was in high school, “We were shocked that the Russians beat us into space,” but it was predicted the United States would put a man on the moon.

And when he was in high school, students were encouraged to study science. Now he’s 74, and said the world is even more technologically oriented, and focused on artificial intelligence.

“We’re going to see tremendous growth,” he said.

Niswander said the United States now leads the world in technology, and he sees the moon landing as a part of that. Never-before-seen technology was required to make the moon landing possible, and out of that grew a focus, nationwide, on studying and developing technology.

A few area residents remembered not just watching the moon landing, but attending the celebration Wapakoneta held in September 1969.

Alice Thrush and her husband had come to Findlay from Wapakoneta, where astronaut Neil Armstrong was from. Thrush’s husband and Armstrong’s sister were in the same high school graduating class, a couple of years after Armstrong himself.

Thrush said they watched the moon landing on television — “Oh, it was wonderful” — and after Armstrong came back from the moon, there was a big festival in Wapakoneta to celebrate. T-shirts and souvenirs were sold, some of which she still has. Later, she met Armstrong and got his autograph.

Thrush, born in 1935, said she never thought she would see a moon landing.

The Wapakoneta “parade was fabulous, and the town was just absolutely going crazy,” remembers Dorothy Reagan, who was 45 then. She lived on a farm on North Dixie Highway in Lima at the time.

Bands were playing — “we even had the Purdue marching band” — and Armstrong was waving during the “beautiful welcoming.”

During the moon landing, which she watched with her husband and their pets, Reagan recalled wondering, “Is this really happening?”

Her television’s audio reception was poor, maybe due to her rural location, so she didn’t know about Armstrong’s “One small step…” declaration until later.

She’s not sure younger people fully appreciate the feat. They say, “Oh, that’s right, that happened.” For people who grew up after the moon landing, “that’s just normal.”

But for Reagan, a child of the 1920s and ’30s — a person born before Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight — reaching the moon was something she “never even thought about” as a possibility.

The moon was something kids looked up at, pointing out shapes on its surface.

So when humans made it to the moon, “it was something to behold.”

Rubright: 419-427-8417

Send an E-mail to kathrynerubright

Twitter: @kerubright

Arthurs: 419-427-8494

saraarthurs@thecourier.com

Twitter: @swarthurs

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