Fifty years ago today, The Geneva Times — forerunner to today’s Finger Lakes Times — reported that an informational seminar in Waterloo, titled “Drug Use and Drug Abuse,” drew 400 people. Also, a light opera was going to be performed as part of the Glenora Music & Arts Festival.
There was a business feature story on the Warder Tent & Awning Company headlined “Tent making is big business at Warder’s.”
It was Monday, July 21, 1969.
There were obituaries for longtime Lyons school teacher Mercedes V. Tierney and for Genevan George S. Treeter, a lifetime member of the Brick Layers and Plasterers Union of Geneva.
It was noted that Donna Jean Whyte of Geneva had been accepted for fall admission to Brockport State University.
In sports, the Geneva Pirates minor-league baseball team of the Class A New York-Pennsylvania League lost two games over the weekend, 4-2 to Williamsport and 6-5 to Auburn, while the Newark Co-Pilots of the same league split, losing to Auburn 6-1 and beating Oneonta 10-3.
The Strand Theatre in Seneca Falls was showing “Charro!” starring Elvis Presley, while John Wayne and Glen Campbell were in “True Grit,” which was playing on the big outdoor screen at Geneva’s Seneca Drive-in.
Midland Discount Store on Exchange Street was advertising specials that included a pound of Bonomo Hard Candy for 37 cents, one pound of Formula 500 Petroleum Jelly for 29 cents, and an 8-ounce jar of Dippity-Do hair gel for 69 cents, while Firestone had 4-ply nylon cord tires on sale starting at $9.95, and you could get a brake adjustment or tire rotation for $1.19.
Dear Abby’s advice column led with an item headlined “Where should sex be taught?”
The national news of the day included more reporting on a weekend accident on Chappaquiddick Island that included Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, who drowned, while international news included a story from Saigon that began: “South Vietnam’s battlefields were reported quiet today with only a minor incident reported in the first eight hours after the U.S. moon landing.”
Oh yeah. That moon landing.
That’s the news that dominated that edition of the Times — and other papers around the nation and around the world. On Sunday night, at 10:56 Eastern Time, man — in the form of U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong — walked on the moon for the first time; he was joined about 40 minutes later by compatriot Buzz Aldrin. It’s estimated that half a billion people around the globe watched it on their televisions.
My buddy David Mashburn and I were two of them. I was 9, and we were school pals growing up in Baldwinsville. David’s family lived in a beautiful — and spacious — old two-story farm house, even though they weren’t farmers. It was a brick home, sort of Victorian Italianate style, and I only mention that because it was one of my favorite houses of all-time. The family was from the south and loved Arkansas football — the only people I ever knew who cheered for the Razorbacks until I met Finger Lakes Times President Paul Barrett.
Because we were on summer vacation, my parents let me go to the Masburns’ for a sleepover. I can’t remember exactly what David’s father did for a living, but I think he was a scientist or an engineer; I know for a fact, at least, that he was passionate about the moon landing. David and I spent most of the evening doing what we normally did — playing catch, first with a baseball, then with a football. As I recall, the moon was bright in the sky that night, and we swore we could see the Lunar Module Eagle and the Command Module Columbia making shadows on the moon. Of course, we couldn’t really, but if your pal says he can see something near the moon, what self-respecting 9-year-old is going to say that he can’t?
Mr. Mashburn called us in to watch the Eagle’s descent on their black-and-white TV, and we watched about an hour of the moon walk as well before our eyes got too heavy.
The Geneva Times, like many other papers, devoted the first two or three pages of that Monday edition to the space program and the Sunday moon landing while filling the rest of paper with the normal news of the day, those college announcements, obituaries, baseball games and Dear Abby columns. The headline on the top moon landing story on the front page read: “The universe is suddenly smaller and life will never be the same.”
It was correct on both counts.
The Mashburns moved away shortly after that night — Mr. Mashburn being called away for work, as I recall — and I lost touch with my Razorback-cheering buddy forever.
Life does change. However, over the last couple of weeks — as the world has reflected on that historic occasion five decades ago — it’s allowed many of us who lived through it to go back in time … to remember old friends … and beautiful farm houses … and Elvis movies … and when a pound of hard candy cost 37 cents.
Cutillo is the Times’ executive editor. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (315) 789-3333, ext. 264.