This week marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.  

Not every household had a TV back then, so viewers flocked to friend’s houses, airports, and appliance storefronts to watch the drama unfold live.  

To celebrate this historic moment, Producer Dave Fraser shares the memories of people who were fortunate enough to see it live and find out how the event impacted their lives.  

This story originally aired on July 18, 2019


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: This week marked the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. And when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.

Not every household had a TV back then, so viewers flocked to friends’ houses, airports, and appliance store fronts to watch the drama unfold live.

To celebrate this historic moment, Producer Dave Fraser shares the memories of people who were fortunate enough to see it live and find out how the event impacted their lives.

Ellen Barry, Springfield, MA: In July of 1969, as so many millions did around the world, my family gathered around the television to watch the Lunar Landing.

What made that extra special for us is that my grandfather was in town to watch with us. So that day, this man, born in 1896 with a horse and buggies, watched the Lunar Module land on the moon and men walk on the moon.

 Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Astronaut: That’s one small step for man one giant leap for mankind.

Ellen Barry: And from his perspective, with his perspective, that event was even more momentous for our family than it might have been had we not been experiencing it with someone who lived through the most dramatic hundred years of progress and technological change the way my grandfather had.

The way we like to put it, is “from carts and candles to computers and control modules.”

John Ptaszek, Chicopee, MA: As I was sitting in the parlor watching the TV, which was very clear, I did see them take the steps down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. Dusty as it was, they did seem to move around well.

I felt that history was in the making at this point and that possibly this would be only the first step to marching out or going into the universe further.

Terry Hodur, Granville, MA: I had a summer job in a very beautiful hotel in Avalon, New Jersey. I was a waitress. This particular night, one of the cooks had brought in a TV, tiny by today’s standards, and black and white. And they set it up in the corner of the kitchen.

It was so amazing because I did see him step with the moon live on that little tiny TV that night. And a big cheer went up and we were so excited and it was wonderful. That’s something that I have never forgotten. It was great

Newsreel footage: And out come America’s Apollo 11 astronauts waving.

Michael Dobbs, Reminder Publications: What impressed me about watching the TV and the news coverage was just how unlike it was … anything I had ever seen in a speculative science fiction film.

The way that they had coordinated a capsule around the moon and then the actual Lunar Landing device. It was almost surreal because it was nothing like anyone had ever predicted

When you look back, I think that that was being interpreted as the beginning of a new era. We had done something that had taken us years to fulfill — ’cause it was President Kennedy who said, you know, we’re going to go to the moon. And, you know, you just sort of stood there with rapt attention at this event because it was genuinely surreal.

Don Rethke, Retired Hamilton Standard Engineer: When I was a young kid, farm kid out Wisconsin, if I couldn’t lift that bale hay or jump that little ditch, I would tell my to my buddy, “that isn’t possible. That is like going to the moon.”

I don’t know if you heard that phrase, but basically the day they land on the moon, that phrase went away.

Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Astronaut: Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D.