Under my hat: Living through lunar lunacy
It was July 21, 1969, when I saw what I believed was the most exciting headline ever printed in a newspaper. I just knew I’d save those editions and still have them 50 years later. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
By Donald Serfass
The moon landing on July 20, 1969, was the culmination of a wild decade.
It’s almost as if someone had placed a challenge: How much excitement can you pack into 10 years?
Those of us who lived through the ’60s remember Vietnam, civil rights protests, flower power, assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Cold War and Woodstock.
But there were other more innocent and innocuous things, too.
The Flintstones debuted on TV and the Barbie doll was matched with a boyfriend, Ken.
The Beatles recorded their first record, although it wasn’t such a big deal at the time. For us, the big deal was when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, sparking the British Invasion.
The Rolling Stones debuted, too, along with many other groups.
ABC- TV began broadcasting in color for a few hours each week and Diet Rite, the first sugar-free soda, hit the shelves along with something new called pull tabs.
There were quite a few scary moments in the ’60s.
It was the beginning of the Cuban missile crisis. Soviet nuclear weapons were being installed nearby. A resulting standoff between the United States and Soviet Union threatened the world with nuclear war.
As little kids, we were subjected to safety drills and an introduction to the frightening concept of fallout shelters.
Soviets sent the first man into space, a cosmonaut, which definitely kicked into high gear the U.S. — U.S.S.R. space race.
So I guess it was fitting that a decade of craziness ended on a good note when man stepped foot on the moon.
I’ll never forget those days. My brother, Dennis, had just graduated from Tamaqua High School. I was a new, wide-eyed freshman, getting ready to spend camp week in the Poconos with the Raider Marching Band.
Things were happening at a fast pace, and I always read the paper to keep up. I recall stories discussing steps to try to build the world’s tallest building in New York City. It would be called the World Trade Center.
But many news reports focused on Apollo 11 and the space program, leading up to the big Sunday for a planned touchdown on the lunar surface.
Like so many others, I was in total disbelief. My eyes were glued to the TV.
There was talk that the astronauts might actually become stranded on the moon. There was no guarantee they’d be able to lift off to return home.
Rumors maintained that NASA had furnished poison pills, or suicide pills, in case the worst scenario happened.
All of this was later debunked.
In any case, the entire mission was a success. The video quality was very poor, but it was clear that humans were on their way to conquer the final frontier.
The next day, I ran out to Moser’s News Agency to buy papers.
The headlines blew me away. In The Philadelphia Inquirer was a grabber printed in the largest font and point size I’d ever seen — Man Walks On Moon!
The Morning Call blasted the headline across the top of the page in red ink, far above their banner.
And why not? This was not only monumental, but unprecedented in the history of man.
The human race had done the unimaginable.
It was a special time for everyone alive. Everybody was talking about it. Lunar lunacy swept the globe.
We felt privileged to be living in the time frame when humans had stepped foot on another heavenly body.
In a vicarious way, we felt like pioneers.
I just knew I’d save those newspapers. I wanted to keep them with me forever.
And 50 years later, I still have them.