Posts Tagged ‘John F. Kennedy’

The Day Man Stepped on the Moon

Monday, July 20th, 2009

All day today members of the media will be posing the question – do you remember where you were when man first stepped on the moon – July 20, 1969? And, I do – I’m really lucky I have any memory of those times – really lucky to have a few brain cells left from that time.

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July 1969 was the summer after high school graduation for me and my group of friends seemed to have been celebrating since graduation in early June. A lot of drinking and what not.

That summer my family’s home was the party house. My parents were spending a lot of time in northern Michigan – sometimes two and three weeks at a time and almost every weekend. My dad was a big fisherman. So the group of guys I hung out with were practically living at my house – when they were not at summer jobs, but every evening no matter what – my house was the focal point.

We were big card players back then and the game that summer was In-Between or High or Low. This was a game where everyone playing would put a dollar in the pot and the dealer would place two cards face up and each player could make a bet if the next card would fall in-between. Like if you had a two and a king – chances are the next card would fall in-between, but if it was an ace, two or king – you were burned and you had to put in the pot what your bet was. Depending on how good your chances were – was how much you bet. If you got really good cards – like a two and an ace – with aces you could call it high or low – if this was a high ace – you might bet to cover the pot. Most saw that as a sure bet, but when you’re drinking a lot, there’s a large group and a lot of distractions – you might forget that there are still some twos or aces that have not been played yet in that deck – and get burned when the next card came up. You’d be amazed on how many people got burned on a so called sure thing.

And, then there were some that were so crazy or felt so lucky that they would bet – a lot of money that the next card would be in-between an eight and a king or even less of a spread. We were a crazy bunch back then.

We would play this game all night long or until someone won everyone else’s money. After one of those nights a bunch of us were still chillin’ out – another word for suffering from our hangovers – and watching TV – watching Neil Armstrong get ready to make the first step on the moon. After he did it and didn’t blow up or something or a hand reach out from the ground and grab his foot we cheered – like the rest of the country was doing and started saying – this is big, this is something and before you knew it we were saying – we need to do something – something big. It was, “One small step for man,” and we were going to take one too.

What we came up with was a train trip to Montreal, Canada. Our school’s French club had gone there on a school trip and we heard it was great so we figured that would be a big trip for us. As my memory goes, five guys came up with the money we figured – to the penny – we needed to make the trip – train fare both ways, hotel fee, and some for “entertainment”.

I won’t go into the details of the trip – mostly because I can’t remember them all and what I do remember is a little fuzzy, but we did it and for me – my parents didn’t even know I had left the country. A point of pride throughout my life – it was called independence.

I will tell you a little about the train ride that seemed to last forever. In 1969, as you graduated from high school as a young, healthy US male, we were required to register for the draft and then wait for the draft lottery when your birth-date was assigned a number – mine was 127 – not good, not totally bad, but that’s another story altogether (See the movie Across the Universe). I can bet you that every US male of a certain age group can tell you what their draft number was – to this day. We’re talking Viet Nam folks. On the train, the Grand Trunk Railroad, as we passed into Canada, a conductor came to each of us and asked to see our draft cards and asked – “are you guys really coming back to the US?”. At that point it was never a thought in our minds – we were all headed to college in the fall. Also, at the time, we didn’t know what our draft number would be – that came later that summer – good thing too – I might have ended up living with some of my old distant relatives in Canada.

We all made it back to the good old US of A – penniless, but we had done something – something that to us was big.

Back then America was a can-do society, president John F. Kennedy had thrown down the challenge to Americans and we stepped up. The summer of 1969 was also the summer of Woodstock. I recently watched the movie and felt a little sad about how my generation let a great opportunity slip by to really change our nation and the world. It seems these days we’re more like the – well, I don’t know – it sounds good but maybe we shouldn’t take the chance generation.

Maybe it’s time we did something big – something special for American and maybe, one day we can get ourselves back to the garden. But then, maybe that’s just a line from a song from once upon a time in America.