Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Internet Friend Reminds Me of My Memories & Space

Kat RN, as I know my Internet friend from Scrapbooks, Etc. Website. I so love her blogs. I've found her blog on the web via her blog on SBEtc just as I have one there. Kat recently paid tribute to her memories of both her parents. Wow, I had tears welling in my eyes.

Her mother trained as a machinist in Technical School. WWII ended as she Kat's post I could not in anyway pay a greater tribute in words then Kat did. Her father loved flying. I can so relate. I love flying, too! Yet I love animals more. I have two brothers who are pilots. Her father loved the Space Program. Throughout my young life the Space Program was forever apart of it.

My dearest memories of NASA.

On the day of the first Moon Walk from the Eagle my Dad & Mom were so excited. The whole country was excited. We were a people that were going to have something no other country could claim. And we'll do it again in my lifetime! We were living in Wilmington, Delaware. I remember Dad having us stay up to watch "History." I was trying so hard to keep my eyes open, it must have been close to 10pm. I was eight years old. I did keep them open, I saw the FIRST STEP! I heard the words....I was proud I was an American!

Late that same year Daddy started leaving on business trips a lot for Houston. Around April I asked at the dinner table one evening, 'Are we moving?' I'd remembered four years before the same thing happened just before we moved from Niagara Falls to Wilmington. Daddy said yes, this summer. In June, we stayed with friends as Mom met Daddy in Houston to look for a new house. They came home together. They had found a house.

For those in Kat's and my age group you can remember back in the '60's and '70's the astronauts were on the same level as Hollywood Stars. Sometimes I think bigger. My parents told me were moving into a house that was across the street from the Conrads and the Lovells lived in the same neighborhood. Oh my Gosh, real astronauts! I became a sudden celebrity at school.

We arrived in the Clear Lake Area on July 21st, 1970. I saw the Conrad Home for the first time the next day. I also saw John Glenn's home. It had just sold and was one of the houses my parents looked at. We were devastated they didn't buy a house that used to belong to an ASTRONAUT! Mom looked at Doug and I and said, 'It's on the canal and you two can't swim.' One week later we both could, but that's another story!

I remember meeting Chris Conrad the first time. At nine I thought he was so cute. And he lived across the street. Chris and I were the two youngest in our grade at Bay Elem. in Seabrook. He had three older brothers Peter, Thomas, and Andy.

It didn't take long to get over the star struck thing. I remember babysitting for the Lovells, going on skeet shooting trips in a local pasture with Peter or Thomas overseeing the younger kids. I remember swimming in the Conrad's pool. They were just like us. My father worked as a Chemical Engineer and the others had astronauts for fathers. I could name a list a mile long of the astronauts I know and were friends with their children. They are people just like I am.

There was a different feeling back then in the Clear Lake Area. Pride in NASA, pride in being an American. Everyone was touched some way or the other by the space program. Here's some other memories.

Production of the television movie starring Gary Collins, 'Houston We've Got a Problem' holds fond memories. Jack King who headed up Mission Control at the time was very involved in the production. Jack and his wife were close friends of my parents. I remember one afternoon after school the house suddenly filled with about 10 people and were given a tour. When they left Mom said they chose the painting of the Delaware River near Shawnee, Pa., to be in the movie. It was a painting my grandfather commission from his home there. Wow, we were excited. The whole family was invited down to watch one of the scenes being taped at the King's house. Sure enough there was "OUR" painting above the mantel of their fireplace. Their house had been transformed into a set. Cables were everywhere, their family room furniture was piled in their formal living room. Other furniture was selected for the scenes shot in the King's house.

I remember how excited Clear Lake was as we were headed back to space with the Space Station. The whole place was all a buzz. I remember the station moored in Clear Lake just across NASA 1 from JSC. New stickers were being added to cars for that flight. It was a badge to be a NASA employee back then and proudly display the flight crest stickers. If you displayed all of the flights you sat at the top of the heap! I remember Chris really missing his Dad. Then the day he returned home. Chris and I rode the bus home from school. It was the first flight Mr. Conrad had since we moved in. His other flights came before we moved to Texas. It was a zoo out in front of the house. Then it happened.....the door to the bus remained closed. Chris was at the front of the line. Six of us got off the bus at that end of our street. Bright lights shined in the bus, Mrs. Conrad was angry and fussing at the reporters. I look back on it and know our bus driver had dealt with it before. Chris disgusted said, it happens every time to me standing right behind him. I remember hitting the ground running for my house. I wanted nothing to do with the press. All of us kids in the neighborhood stayed in the house that afternoon. I found Mom disgusted, too. Our front lawn looked like a trash pit. Needless to say it took until after the 10pm news for them to leave. My mother went out too many times to count and told them to get off the lawn. The next morning my brothers and I went out to pick up the trash they left behind. Chris and his brothers doing the same. Thus my distaste for media cameras as an adult.

I think the neatest thing that during Mr. Conrad's stay aboard Space Lab, Mr. King took all of the kids to Mission Control over at JSC. Not all at one time, there were probably 300 kids or more in the neighborhood. I went with my brothers and Ellen who lived across the street, too. We lived on the corner. It was so cool to sit quietly and listen to all that was going on. What a treat.

Then the first flight of Columbia. Mr. Young and Mr. Crippen. I knew Mr. Crippen well. His daughter and I kept our horses at the same boarding stable and were good friends. Mom and Mrs. Crippen very close friends. Another new first for our nation, but the rest of the nation no longer put astronauts on the level of Hollywood Stars. I remember before the flight, Columbia was on it's way to KSC aboard it's 747. They were going to do a fly over of the Clear Lake Area. I was now in High School. I was a junior or senior, can't really remember. I remember our principal telling us during morning announcements we would get a five minute heads up and we would be released as in a fire drill to watch the fly over. When the fire drill bell rang the shop wing didn't walk, we flooded the hall and ran to the student parking lot. There were only four classes. I was taking drafting. The roar that went up from the students of Clear Lake High School could be heard for miles I'm sure. It sounded from around the entire school. WE WERE PROUD!

Then came a moment of devastation. When I was little I asked about the plaque at the front honoring Commander See and Commander Grisham. Astronauts that died. Commander See on a training mission in an F4 and Comander Grisham of course in Apollo 1. All before we moved to Texas. This was a cold rainy morning in Jan. of 1986. I was in my first semester at Texas A&M as a Graduate Student. I finished my morning classes and went to grab lunch. I didn't know any of my fellow students yet. I was commuting from my job in East Texas twice a week. I went to a local restaurant to grab a bite before labs. I sat down, looked up at the TV and saw a clip of the Challenger rising. I knew there was a flight, I'd not paid much attention to it, and in fact the media never paid much attention. I was surprised, the sound turned down but the scrolling of what was being said was being played. I wasn't reading. To my horror I watched Challenger explode. Right there in the middle of the restaurant I started to sob. Someone came over to me, asked if I was ok. NO, I have to call home, I have to know if I knew any of the astronauts. I ran from the store to find, yes a pay phone. A collect call to my mother, crying, "Mom tell me I don't know anyone aboard the Challenger?" Micheal Smith the pilot, and I slumped to the floor! Until your life is surrounded by a program such as NASA and your pride in your country is created in a program of heroes both who fly and are on the ground helping our men and women in Space you become a part of a huge community that is pulled together. That is NASA! I was able to return home that weekend. Headlights throughout Texas were on, driving down NASA 1 past JSC was 20 miles an hour out of respect. People were still crying as they drove past NASA. We hurt as a community. It was the same when Columbia was lost on re-entry. Yet, I didn't know any of the astronauts on that flight. I still fell apart when I heard the news.

I am a product of NASA even though my father didn't work there. I eat live and breathe the space program. I love the space program. I lived history day in and day out. Funny thing, I've never asked a single astronaut what it was like to walk on the moon or be in space. I had the privilege of taking my great-nephew to Johnson Space Center last summer. I'll pull the pictures off and put them up on this post later today or tomorrow. I had fun showing Blake the Astronauts I knew in the pictures from the '60's and '70's. I'm also going to spell check it later, it's 2:30am. Good night!


1 comment:

Kat_RN said...

I too have tears in my eyes after reading your post. You are very lucky. We are both very lucky to have grown up in such an amazing time.
I was overseas in Great Britain when Challanger exploded. There is several hours difference in the time and I don't believe it was televised over there. I heard about it at work. I was stunned. I could not believe it was true. Most of the other Airman and the two NCO's who were there are the same age range as we are. The atmosphere in the shop was just like we had lost one of our F-111s.
Challanger for us was like the Kennedy assasination for our parents. The moment we heard about it is imbedded permanantly in our memories.
If you are still in touch with any of the older astronauts, tell them for me that they touched lives clear across this country. Tell them we still remember. Tell them thank you for me.
Thank you too.