Monday, July 20, 2009

40th anniversary of 1st moonwalk brings nostalgia 40th anniversary of first moonwalk brings nostalgia


July 20, 2009 7:13 AM

It has been 40 years since man first walked on the moon and Neil Armstrong uttered the words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Some Santa Barbarans remember well what that extraordinary "small step for man" and "giant leap for mankind" was like for Americans.

"I was in an elementary school classroom," said Goleta resident Scott Nelson. "We were into rockets at the time, and it was the big one. It was just great."

Carol Schmitter, 55, remembers the experience fondly.

"I was in sixth grade," she said. "It was quite amazing. I remember seeing it with my mom and my sister."

At the time of the first moonwalk, Americans were fascinated with outer space.

"I had just graduated from high school," said Grant House, 58. "Everybody watched it, and we all felt part of it."

Mr. House, a Santa Barbara city councilman, recalls the joy that the experience brought him.

"I remember being very, very excited and happy," he said. "It was just such an accomplishment."

Greg Froelick, 52, said he was in Satellite Beach, Fla., when Mr. Armstrong took those first steps, and he could actually hear rockets taking off.

"I think I was in fourth, fifth or sixth grade," he said, "and I was excited."

Bob Grebil, 61, said he vividly remembers the experience.

"I was in a bar," he said. "I thought it was cool. I was 21, and I was working in a restaurant."

Mr. Grebil said he remembers a camaraderie between those who saw it together.

"Everybody thought it was pretty cool. We all hung out in the bar," he said.

While most did remember the accomplishment as an emotional moment in history, for some the event was overshadowed by other emotional happenings of the decade.

"I was in Orange County," said 55-year-old Ed Gover, who said he was probably excited but hardly remembers the first moonwalk. "I just remember Kennedy's death."

In other parts of Santa Barbara County, residents offered their own recollections of the historic day.

Lompoc pet store owner Gary Bauer recalls being a young student in elementary school during the historic landing. Though he doesn't recall much of the actual moment, one particular element stood out for him.

"I remember them wheeling a television into the classroom so we could watch," he said. "None of our classrooms had televisions back then."

Another Lompoc resident, Donna Van Wagenen, was 22 when the moon landing took place, and she had other things on her mind at the time.

"I was busy being pregnant," she laughed. "But it was cool. I liked the idea (of man being on the moon)."

Staff writer Nora Wallace contributed to this story.

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