Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we actually made things in this country that worked, we were NOT First in Space. I was less than a wee slip of a lad when the Soviets launched Sputnik and was oblivious to the worried looks on grown-up faces that we living in the shadow of rockets with the hammer and sickle on the side.
Meant nothing to me I must confess. And while I sort of remember space monkeys (my brother Kelly would have approved until they touched down, and then not so much) it wasn’t until Alan Shepherd in Freedom 7 went on the first Mercury flight that I started to pay attention.
It was a sub-orbital flight, which is a grown-up word for ‘didn’t really get out into space’ or leave the Earth’s gravitational pull. It made no difference to any of us on Bloomfield Avenue in Somerset, New Jersey. Me, Neil S, Bobby F and all the rest who sand-lotted when the field around the corner wasn’t covered in snow, now had a new aspiration even if we didn’t know the word.
And by the time we got to “Colonel Glenn”, who on this date fifty-three years ago became the first American to orbit the Earth, we would have gladly joined Alice Kramden after Ralph sent her to the moon, if only we’d stayed up on a school night late enough to watch The Honeymooners and get the reference.
John Glenn was actually a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines, though for us that was difference without distinction as it was for most of about to become knee deep in Big Muddy half a world away in the rice paddies of Indochina.
But it was high times listening to the loudspeaker in the right hand front corner of the classroom at St Peter’s (sic) School in New Brunswick when the principal, Sister Immaculata, held her PA microphone up to the radio as we sat enthralled with it all listening at our desks.
Those were days when we never tired and never wavered. We would live forever and use the moon as a launching pad for adventures to the farthest reaches of the universe. Sometimes growing up is not all it’s cracked up to be.