In 1969, I was 12 years old and a Newsday carrier in my neighborhood in Hicksville. Newsday was an afternoon paper in those days, and after school, I’d load up the canvas sack on my Schwinn Stingray with papers at a depot behind a store on Twin lawns Avenue. Many of the customers on my paper route would wait for me to arrive with the paper every day, and they like to talk about the news of the day.
There was no cable or satellite TV. The main source of news was Newsday, the Long Island Press or one of the New York City newspapers, as well as radio, and the shows on New York City channels and on the three networks, ABC, NBC and CBS. Everyone I knew, including my parents, watched the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” on Ch. 2.
In that time, I wound up delivering copies of Newsday that reported on many of America’s most historic moments: the killings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy, the war in Vietnam, Woodstock, and the championships of the New York Jets and the Miracle Mets in 1969, and of the New York Knicks in 1970.
My 45 or so customers had a lot to say and would chat about these events at the front door. I remember that women cried over the two assassinations of 1968.
But it was different when I arrived on Monday afternoon, July 21, 1969. My customers were waiting for the Newsday with the giant front-page headline “MEN WALK ON THE MOON.”
Neighbors stood in their driveways and in the streets shaking hands and hugging.
“We did it, we did it!” they exclaimed. “We knew America could do it.”
One customer said three men on the block worked at Grumman Aerospace and were part of building the lunar module that took two astronauts to the surface of the moon, and then returned them to the command module.
People were so proud, but perhaps no one more than me. My father worked at Grumman for 30 years. He was a machinist and worked on the lunar module and even got to sign his name, Alfred A. Anuszewski, on part of the lander with other workers.
My father could build anything with his hands. That’s why Grumman hired him. His father had died at a young age, and so my father was forced to quit high school and go to work to support his mother and two siblings in Roslyn before he joined the service and fought in World War II.
At its peak, some 7,000 Grumman employees were assigned to the lunar module project. For my father to have worked on the moon program at Grumman even though he had no high school diploma, and to have provided his wife and five children with a good life on Long Island, seems incredible to me even today.
He worked 60-hour weeks on the program, sometimes to the frustration of my mother. But when Apollo 11 was on the way to the moon, he told me not to worry. He said some of the most brilliant people in the country had worked on the project, and that the mission would go well. He was right.
Looking back at July 21, 1969, I will never forget the triumphant feelings of people hugging and being so united and proud of America. America today could learn a lot from a historic moment that had the fingerprints of Long Islanders all over it.
Reader Alfred Anuszewski lives in Shoreham.