A look back: The Kitsap County Herald reacts to the Moon landing

The 50th anniversary of the Moon landing is Saturday, July 20

Fifty years ago Saturday, Eagle, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module landed in the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon; and six and a half hours after landing, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface.

On Tuesday morning, Jake Whittenberg of King 5 shared on Twitter a photo of the front page of the July 16 edition of the Port Angeles Evening News, which is now known as the Peninsula Daily News and is a sister publication of the North Kitsap Herald.

“They’re on their way!” proclaimed the July 16 edition of the Evening News with a cover photo flanked by two stories.

Naturally, that begged the question for our staff — what did the Kitsap County Herald have to say about this historic event?

Unfortunately, the 1969 archives are missing from the Poulsbo office; but the Kitsap Regional Library in Bremerton has it preserved on microfilm and is available for public inspection.

As it is now, the Kitsap County Herald (now the North Kitsap Herald) was a weekly publication then. It was delivered on Wednesdays, so two editions bookended the Sunday Moon landing.

The July 16, 1969 edition doesn’t mention it. Among other things, the front cover features a schedule for Chief Seattle Days and a story highlighting a citizen’s complaint about the price tag of the new addition to North Kitsap High School.

Some things never change.

The Herald does, however, devote some space to the Moon landing in the July 23 edition of the paper.

The robust opinion page features the paper’s official editorial declaring that “In our book, it was well worth everything it cost.”

And then there’s Editor and Publisher David L. Averill’s regular “Newcomer” column, in which he laments the lack of non-automobile transportation for getting from Kitsap to Seattle.

“Now that we’ve sent two men to the moon, perhaps we can make a timid start toward finding a way to get from here to Seattle.”

“In our part of the world, if you lack a car you are as isolated as somebody in the Sea of Tranquility. All you have going for you is that you don’t need a life support system.”

Sheesh, tough crowd.

“If you live at Port Madison,” Averill continues, “Agate Pass or Lemolo or Poulsbo, you can watch the big Greyhounds dashing across the countryside, polluting the air with diesel fumes.

But don’t expect them to stop. They won’t. According to the company, they can’t. Their franchise doesn’t include Kitsap County.

As a result, from Seattle you can buy a ticket to Chimacum or Port Ludlow or Sequim or Forks, but none to any point on Bainbridge or in North Kitsap.”

Averill then went on to humorously describe the way carless folks get to and from Seattle. Getting to the big city was fairly simple, Averill said, as there was always a nearby neighbor making the trip. But getting back from Seattle was a different story.

“The solution I like best is provided by a Poulsbo man who buys a bus ticket to Port Ludlow [from Seattle] and then, as the bus reaches the place where he really wants to get off, pretends to have an epileptic fit.

That is a hard way to stop a bus, but apparently it works.

For the citizen who lacks dramatic training though, the buses are no solution. One result is that we have high-toned hitchhikers in this area. The lucky ones among them manage to promote a ride by mingling with the coffee-drinkers on the ferry and looking for a familiar face. The less fortunate ones find themselves standing forlornly beside the highway at Winslow.”

Also appearing in the paper was the week’s Man on the Street question, which asked local residents their response to the trip to the Moon.

The quotes printed generally represented the range of emotions Americans were going through at the time — from expressing amazement that the government could fly a rocket ship to the Moon to regret over the amount of money spent that could have gone toward solving domestic issues.

Among the quotes printed in the paper were:

“I think they are going to put up laboratories and scientific equipment and have a city up there.” — Ellen Langston.

“It is pretty hard to say what it will mean in the future, but these new explorations have always resulted in the benefit of mankind. There is a lot of good that will come out of it, but I can’t say what.” — Martin Anderson.

“I think it is one of the biggest boons to the economy of the country that has ever happened.” — Floyd Band.

“I think differently from the people who think it will solve everything from the poverty program to the war. The things on this earth comes first.” — James A. Harron.

“I think it is just fantastic that they can go to the moon and come back.” — Romona Nelson, who added that the mission was a “terrific waste of money” and that “the poor people could use that money.”

“When Columbus discovered America, Queen Isabella didn’t know what he was doing and look what it got us — a messed up world.” — Gary Coleman, who later added that he felt the moon shot was “wonderful all the same.”

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com.

Local residents were given a chance to weigh in on the Moon landing in “Man on the Street” interviews. (Kitsap Regional Library archives)

Local residents were given a chance to weigh in on the Moon landing in “Man on the Street” interviews. (Kitsap Regional Library archives)