July 1969: Locals offer suggestions for first words to be spoken on the moon

Posted 7/12/19

In July 1969 there was much speculation about what the first words spoken on the moon would be. The Daily Mountain Eagle polled a few readers and published their responses on July 8, 1969. L.T. …

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July 1969: Locals offer suggestions for first words to be spoken on the moon

Posted

In July 1969 there was much speculation about what the first words spoken on the moon would be. The Daily Mountain Eagle polled a few readers and published their responses on July 8, 1969. 

L.T. Hudgins of Alabama Power Company, Mrs. Odie Wilson and Paul Brignet all expected that they would be speechless.

Irene Britton of People's Hospital thought she might say, "Gee, it's nice to get away from it all for a while."

W.B. Curry of Walker County Bank also made a joke: "Oh, m'gosh, here at last!"

Mrs. Jesse Haynes gave a more somber reply — "Dear Heavenly Father, I am thankful for this privilege."

Eagle readers learned in the same issue that Bonny, America's space monkey, had died after being brought back from orbit on July 7. A month-long mission had been planned to study the physical effects of lengthy space voyages. Bonny, a ringtail monkey, had been brought home after only nine days.

NASA officials reported that Bonny's performance on assigned tasks had deteriorated rapidly during the first week in orbit, and he had started ignoring signals sent from the ground after the eighth day.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin spent July 8 practicing potential takeoff emergencies. 

President Richard Nixon had planned to dine with the crew the night before the July 16 launch but announced a week early that he had canceled because of the strict quarantine mentioned in last week's column.

As the launch grew closer, a UPI reporter took the opportunity to remind Americans that a successful lunar landing was not an inevitability.

"What they seem to forget — the President, the Congress and a lot of others — is that the mission could be delayed, forced to return to Earth early, possibly prevented from landing on the moon. Even worse could happen," the wire article stated.

NASA administrator Dr. Thomas Paine told the UPI reporter, "We have no false pride about these specific dates. We will not hesitate to postpone this mission if we feel we are not ready in all respects. And once the voyage of Apollo 11 is begun, we have no pride that would make us hesitate to bring home the crew immediately if we encounter problems."

One potential and quite bizarre problem announced to the world on July 14 was that the moon had an owner. 

"Jenarao Gajardo Vera, 49, a title attorney, was granted a deed registering himself as owner of the moon in a Talca Chile court in 1956. In an open letter to President Nixon published Sunday, Gajardo asked permission to visit the United States for the astronauts' return, 'on which occasion I will take my title to share it happily with the champions of outer space.'" 

On the local front, the Eagle ran a short piece on 67-year-old Boldo resident Lucy Hollums, who had received South Central Bell's Vail Medal Award for showing bravery during the big fire of 1920.

The blaze began in the old Coca-Cola plant and spread throughout the Jasper business district and Parrish Highway. 

Hollums, a telephone operator, was on duty at the time in a building that was on fire. She and fellow operator Miss Greene "stayed in the midst of the smoke and turmoil to answer frantic calls for help from distressed town people and sent aid where it was needed."

Hollums was one of only seven people who had received the Vail Medal Award prior to 1969. She had forgotten all about the recognition until she read where four men had received the award in April and May 1969.

The Eagle also did a nice feature story on 16-year-old barber Ricky Blackwell. Blackwell, who was deaf, was working at Herron's Barber Shop on 19th Street. 

Blackwell was left deaf after a bout with bronchitis when he was three weeks old. He attended the Alabama School for the Deaf in Talladega, where he received some barber training and was quite active in sports.

He was a halfback on the Silent Warriors football team, a guard on the basketball team and a member of the track team. He also enjoyed skiing and swimming. 

Next week it will be time to recap the week that the world stopped to watch the lunar landing and discuss that moon colony (complete with hotel) that never quite materialized.


Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.