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Memories of a moon landing: these people remember Armstrong's famous footsteps

Where were you when Armstrong took his small steps?

Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon leaving some of history’s most significant footprints.

In fact, it’s the footprints Carole Stuart recalls thinking about as she watched the two astronauts leaping around the moon’s surface.

Stuart recalls the day clearly. She, her husband and their three kids were house-sitting for a friend in Unionville. The five of them gathered around a black-and-white television to watch the event.

“It was fascinating to watch them in space suits, floating around, leaving footprints and planting the flag,” said Stuart. “I thought about those prints and how they would stay there forever.”

Stuart is now the coordinator for the Collingwood Public Library local history and genealogy department.

While watching the landing, she remembers broadcasters talking about how precise everything had to be for the landing, and later the take-off, to be a success.

“We were all worried about them getting off the moon,” she said.

Stuart remembers thinking about what would happen if they got stuck on the moon, and how long they would have oxygen and food to last.

The next day, everyone she met would ask if she saw the astronauts landing on the moon.

The Apollo 11 left earth on July 16, 1969, and four days later (July 20) the lunar landing pod, called the Eagle, landed in the Sea of Tranquility on the surface of the moon.

George Czerny was a new reporter at the time of the moon landing. He had been working in his job at the Orillia Packet and Times for about a year and a half.

Though he doesn’t recall exactly what he did when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, he did save a copy of both the Globe and Mail and the Barrie Examiner from July 21, 1969.

His work as a reporter also meant he had the benefit of watching Canadian Press reports on the event.

“We got them on a ticker tape, about an inch wide, with little dots on it,” said Czerny. “They were yellow, and they fit into the linotype machine.”

Alongside the ticker tape, the newspaper received a continuous printout on a tape about four inches wide with the text of the stories.

He said he’s glad he saved the newspapers from the day after the event, and it’s been fun to look back at what life was like then.

“You could buy a paddle for $2.29 at Canadian Tire … or a house in Toronto for $48,000,” he said.

He also remembers the moon landing sparked controversy.

“There was a division,” he said. “Some people believed it was a hoax. There were doubters.”

Even though he doesn’t recall watching the moment, he remembers it was a big deal for most people.

“There was a general feeling of euphoria … this was such a big thing,” said Czerny, now 73.

His copy of the Globe and Mail features a story about a crowd of 35,000 gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto to watch the moon landing.

The Barrie Examiner ran a large red headline across the top of the front page reading “Man on Moon.” The front page coverage included a story about the “perilous trek home,” that would follow the moon landing.

Czerny is now retired, but worked as the editor and later publisher of The Enterprise-Bulletin (E-B) in Collingwood.

Though the E-B was in print in 1969, there’s no mention of the moon landing in the July 24, 1969 edition.

Czerny wasn’t the only one to save a keepsake from the historic day.

Bob MacNair, a retired Collingwood resident, Probus club member, and trails committee volunteer, recalls his attempt to keep his own memento.

He was 21-years-old, and a recent graduate from the University of Western and was working in accounts payable for Ford Motor Company in Oakville at the time. He and some friends gathered at his parents home in Oakville to watch the television coverage of Armstrong stepping onto the moon.

“I had a little Kodak camera and took a picture of that moment from the television,” recalls MacNair. “I had the picture for a very long time.”

He has since misplaced the photograph, and regrets not taking better care of it.

MacNair calls the day a “monumental occasion.”

CollingwoodToday also put out a general call on our Facebook page looking for memories of the moon landing.

Here are some more recollections from the day:

Patti Parsons: “I was a camp counsellor in Vermont and we all gathered around a small TV and gasped at what we saw! So happy I grew up in those remarkable years."

Andrea Davis: She was at a summer camp called Camp Tawingo, near Muskoka, and watched the landing with fellow campers and staff in the dining hall.

“It was wild to watch but the most vivid moment for me was walking out of the dining hall back to my cabin and looking up to the skies. Classic summer skies loaded with stars and there was the moon and all I thought of was the two men who were now standing on it.”

Heather Hart Davis was also at a summer camp, this one in Nova Scotia when she watched the landing on TV.

“I remember looking up at the sky/moon later and wondering what was happening up there,” she said.

Ann Orr: “I was having a baby, my daughter was born on July 16, 1969, and, way back then, you got to stay in the hospital and rest for a week, it was wonderful. The moon landing was on every channel so that what we watched. I can never forget those two wonderful moments, our daughter’s birth and the moon landing. As a bonus, she was born in North York General which was a new hospital with air conditioning, since it was a blisteringly hot July we got lots of visitors just wanting to cool off!”

Gayle Robinson: “It was my first trip to Ontario. We were walking downtown Toronto. Big TVs in windows and people gathered about watching. Totally amazing!”

Marianne Lepa: “I was 12. We were at my grandparents' place in London, ON. My father turned on their terrible black and white tv to watch the landing … We had been talking about it in school for weeks leading up to the actual landing … I went outside later, and looked up at the moon, picturing the astronauts there. I was so excited for our future. I thought this meant I'd become an adult in a completely different world. I suppose I have, but I thought it would be better than this.”


Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter, photographer and community editor.
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