The Moon and Me In 1950 ©2017 Bill Murphy
I feel a special attachment to the moon, one that goes way back into childhood, and continues to this day.
Although my parents kept my sister and I well supplied with age-appropriate reading materials – I was especially excited by the discovery of the Viola E. Lake Memorial Library in George Elementary School. At first I struggled in learning to read, because all those ‘th’ words looked alike to me. By 3rd grade, I’d mastered that wonderful ability, and reading became the doorway leading me to places far from Evergreen Street in south Jackson.
I was especially drawn to books on astronomy and space travel. In 1950, Pluto was still a planet, and Mars was firmly believed to be laced by canals, just a Percival Lowell had drawn them in 1906. In the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, the US military was firing off Werner von Braun’s V-2 rockets right, left, and ever higher, reaching up toward space. And Chesley Bonestall, that great painter of all things space, was in his prime, churning out vividly colorful images of men working on the moon, space ships on their way to Mars and beyond, and gigantic wheel-like space stations circling the earth. It was a most exciting time for youngsters like myself.
I’ve written much about my dear maternal grandmother who lived next door, but I need now to reveal a sad fact about her life. She was raised in a ‘dirt-poor’ family with few opportunities. She never learned to read. Therefore, her ‘world view’ was limited to not much farther than her arms could reach. But – what filled her heart more than made up for what was between her ears.
I can remember that pivotal night as if it were only yesterday.
This was the days before TV. Instead of sitting inside before an electronic device, we were outside, the adults sitting on the porch, the kids playing in the yard. I remember standing there in Mamaw’s front yard, gazing up at the moon overhead, and wishing and hoping that I would live long enough to see mankind even make an attempt to go there.
I can’t remember the exact words I spoke in relaying that deep and longing desire to my family that night, there in Mamaw’s front yard, but Mamaw quickly respond with,
“Child, there’s nothing up there to go to! The stars and – the moon up there – are just lights in the sky!”
To Mamaw, the sky overhead was just a gigantic domed roof overhead, and the moon and stars only ‘lights in the ceiling.’ Mamaw didn’t live long enough to learn otherwise.
But I did live long enough to see men not only try – but go to the moon – and walk on its dusty surface. And that’s another reason the moon is special to me. It was the very day that Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon that I first learned of Carol Ringer, now my dear wife. I wrote about that in January of this year, “The Year That Changed It All.”