At 10:56 p.m. EDT on Sunday July 20, 1969, Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, spacecraft commander of Apollo 11, set foot on the moon.
I was news director at radio station WGTA in Summerville at that time. In getting interviews with local people to hear their reactions to the landing, I learned some people never believed they landed on the moon. It was beyond their comprehension.
The custodian for the courthouse, Roosevelt Young, was a well-liked individualist. When I asked him what he thought about the moon landing, he said, “If the Lord had wanted us to go there, he would have hung it lower.”
The late Congressman John W. Davis was from Chattooga County. He served on the Science and Astronautics Committee. After the landing, he arranged for the astronauts of Apollo 17, the last astronauts landing on the moon, to come to Marietta and Rome.
Charles Graves of Rome, who was on Congressman Davis’ staff had the privilege of bringing them. A parade was held for them in Marietta, and they attended the Coosa Valley Fair in Rome.
Charles stated “They were fun guys to spend a couple of days with. Schmitt was more reserved, but the other two were outgoing.”
I was invited to meet and interview those astronauts — Spacecraft Commander Gene Ceman, Lunar Module Pilot Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Commander Module Pilot Ron Evans — accompanied by Charles, at the Holiday Inn in Rome. It was a lively conversation!
To say the least, that was the highlight of my reporting days.
The following are excerpts from the information sent to me by the astronauts upon their return to NASA:
A: Some unidentified objects have been seen, but most later were proven or surmised to be such prosaic items as water droplets, material from the spacecraft or launch vehicle, or man-made satellites. Wally Schirra did report a UFO during his December 1965 flight of Gemini 6, but that turned out to be Santa Claus. No “flying saucer” has been sighted.
When I look at the moon, I stare in wonder that some people have actually walked on it and that, thanks to Congressman John W. Davis’ being my representative and my being in radio, I got to meet and talk with those fellows.
Louise McCollum of Gore writes an occasional column for the Rome News-Tribune.