I was 12 years old and looking ahead to entering seventh grade at South Lewis Junior Senior High School in the summer of 1969. That’s when I started collecting news clippings for an Apollo 11 scrapbook.
Most of the articles and pictures came from the Watertown Daily Times.
I still have most of the pages of that scrapbook. The cardboard covers were damaged over the years, so I threw them away.
My scrapbook includes articles from the days before launch and the early part of the mission as the spacecraft headed to the moon. The pages covering the landing, exploration of the moon and return to Earth are lost.
But we know how it all worked out.
At our house, the Times arrived every evening thanks to our local carrier. I believe the newspaper price in 1969 was 10 cents.
In my scrapbook, there are plenty of sidebar stories and pictures. There are pictures with captions featuring Buzz Aldrin and his family. There’s a photo of his 10-year-old son, Andrew, with a caption suggesting that the young boy is now the most popular child in his school.
Joan Aldrin, the wife of Buzz, is featured in a photo and caption as she unfurls the U.S. flag in front of their home. Buzz is highlighted from a demonstration the astronauts did inside the orbiter midway to the moon.
I wonder whether I just favored features about Buzz Aldrin or whether Neil Armstrong, noted for his desire for privacy, asked NASA to downplay stories about his family to the media.
Among the clippings, there is a small glossary of acronyms NASA used throughout the mission, artist renderings of what the spacecraft looked like and a diagram showing how the lunar module would separate from the command module for the moon landing.
I even clipped an advertisement for television station WWNY and its coverage of Apollo 11 as a CBS affiliate.
One of the stories in the scrapbook referenced an announcement by NASA that the original time of the astronauts venturing out on to the lunar surface might change from 2:21 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday, July 19, back to a more viewer-friendly time on Sunday evening, July 20.
My family had planned to spend the better part of that Sunday evening at the Port Leyden Firemen’s Field Days. The mixture of amusement rides, games, hot dogs, French fries and cotton candy was a big part of our summertime tradition.
When we learned the actual walk on the lunar surface would take place on Sunday evening rather than early Monday morning, my family left the field day grounds for our house on Lincoln Street. Once we were home, all of us gathered around our television set and watched the coverage.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Neil Armstrong’s words were about as clear as a voice on a long-distance phone call. The image of his stepping on the lunar surface was hard to make out in black and white. But there was no doubt both Armstrong and Aldrin had made it.
I couldn’t wait for the next day’s Watertown Daily Times to arrive so that I could begin clipping out the stories of the moonshot after my mom and dad had finished reading it.
There it was in glorious black and white: mankind’s great achievement. We were eyewitnesses.
In my family, the idea of keeping a scrapbook came from my Grandma Newvine. I don’t recall how long she had been doing it, but I remember one in particular she started when my Uncle Bill Newvine went to Vietnam. The clippings in that book were local stories that happened while he was away.
The Apollo 11 scrapbook was my “Google” of the moonshot several decades before we ever heard of computer search engines. It remains a cherished possession now 50 years after this one-time 12-year-old thought it might be a good idea to collect the stories as a keepsake.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced, Calif., and grew up in Port Leyden. He wrote two books about his hometown: “Growing Up, Upstate” and “Grown Up, Going Home.” Both are available online or by loan at the Port Leyden Community Library. He is a featured columnist for MercedCountyEvents.com and works for a California utility.