July 20, 1969: When the other news of the day revolved around the moon
When Americans walked on the moon, earthlings watched — or tried to
July 20, 1969 was a day, it seemed, when the moon was in the sights of almost everyone around the world.
Three U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and Michael Collins had blasted off the Earth's surface on July 16, 1969, on the Apollo XI mission which would lead to two of them — Armstrong and Aldrin — walking on the moon four days later.
The historic landing was, of course, front page news.
Collins orbited the moon in the Columbia, as Armstrong stepped off the Eagle lunar module and took the now-famous "small step for man and one giant leap for mankind."
He was joined by fellow Eagle passenger Aldrin.
As the CBC's Bill Copps illustrated the next day with his roundup of news headlines, there was other news of the day that somehow revolved around the viewing of the big event — "moon stories" he called them.
Like the west-end Toronto milk store operator who Coops reported was robbed of $700. The robbery happened shortly after Armstrong set foot on the moon, and thus for the man in the milk store, the thieves had "ruined his moon watching."
Copps also reported that "Yorkville's hippies" had staged a "bay-in or bay-out, to mark the end of the moon's virginity."
In other moon-related news, Copps said an 11-year-old girl "tried to phone the moon," but was told it was "no-go." Perhaps, he suggested, the operator could have put her call through to "someplace like Moonbeam, Moon River or Moonstone, here in Ontario, or Moon Lake in Alberta."
Torontonians flocked to view the event on a 30-by-40-foot screen in Nathan Phillips Square, where, the Globe and Mail reported the next day, "more than 35,000" showed up.
They crowded the square so much that they "flattened the shrubbery, stood shoulder to shoulder in the reflecting pool ... and occupied just about every square foot of the ground available."
The Globe and Mail also described the crowd as "good-natured" and "mostly young, that cheered everything — the video-taped replays of earlier Apollo exploits, the civic dignitaries who welcomed them."
They also cheered, the report continued, "the miniskirted moon girls who pranced through the crowd handing out moon juice."
But as Copps' headlines revealed, not all of Toronto was at home or at parties watching with the other reported 500 million around the world.
"When it comes to being blasé about the whole thing, think of the full house they had at Toronto's Glendale Theatre to see 2001: A Space Odyssey while the real thing was going on."
There were some, Copps continued, who wanted to keep their eyes on the screen, such as guards in a Savannah, Ga., prison, but their watching was interrupted by a breakout of 16 prisoners.
"So far only six have been picked up."
"And that's it for moon stories," Copps said.