Memories of Apollo

Manistee County seniors reflect on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing

By SCOTT FRALEY
Staff Writer

MANISTEE — A half-century ago, Manistee residents joined with hundreds of millions around the globe as Live TV coverage made them witnesses to history. The world watched as men from the planet Earth stepped onto another world for the first time, uniting people around the globe in a way not seen before or since.

They tuned in to radios or watched the grainy black-and-white images on TV as Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, in one of humanity’s most glorious technological achievements.

Even now, 50 years later, that day is still as deeply etched in the memories of many. The News Advocate is taking this opportunity to reflect on the legacy of the Apollo program. Local residents at the Manistee County Council on Aging were asked to share their memories of the historic moon walk on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

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Sam and Jane Coram reminisce about Apollo 11 at an ice cream social event with their grandchildren. (Scott Fraley/News Advocate)

Sam Coram was a 19 year old college student on summer break from Northern Michigan University. He first heard “the eagle has landed” while driving through Royal Oak.

“It was one of those days where you know exactly where you were, like when Kennedy was assassinated,” said Coram. “You knew the time and where you were. I remember I was on the corner of Rochester Road and 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak, when he landed on the moon. And it was like everything just stopped. Traffic had stopped. People were out and they were jumping up and down in the street. They were on top of their cars. It was a big celebration and it was a feeling like our government and our space program had accomplished so much — they actually did it. So many people were just yelling. It was amazing, what a feat.”

Along with wife Jane Coram, Sam has maintained an interest in the space program. The couple said they saw moon rocks at the Smithsonian and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, now housed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

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Don Pilarski’s job at the Packing Corporation of America kept him from seeing the initial broadcast of the moon landing, but wife Sandy still remembers the bravery of the astronauts.

“It was a little overwhelming even thinking about it today,” said Pilarski. “What I thought was how brave the astronauts were to get into that rocket, and even more brave to open the door and get out. You have to be really adventurous to do that. Going that far up into the unknown and the planting of the flag — that was awesome.”

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Paul Bosschem has witnessed rocket launches and returns from the latest Space X program to the disastrous Challenger mission.

“We’ve seen a lot of them,” said Bosschem. “I still get excited about them. One time, we were in Coco beach at a friends condominium, it was such a perfect day that we could see the tanks come off the sides of the rocket.”

Even after so many launches, the Apollo 11 mission still stirs strong feelings for him.

“I remember there was people that couldn’t believe it was really happening” said Bosschem. “But when they said ‘one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind,’ those words sink in. You’re just proud to be part of a country that’s succeeded like this. It was really exciting. This was a real feat. This was an accomplishment that people didn’t think could ever happen.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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