Kay Ethier’s son was digging around in the crawlspace of her Parksville home when he found a little slice of history.
Alongside the old report cards were a handful of Toronto newspapers from July 21, 1969 – the day after NASA’s Apollo 11 crew made history by walking on the moon.
Ethier lived in Aurora, Ont., at the time, and her husband Gerry Ethier saved the papers. He had worked for the Air Force, and was interested in all things aviation. The two moved to Parksville 26 years ago. Gerry has since passed away, but the papers he saved 50 years ago still remain.
Ethier clearly remembers where she was on July 20, 1969 – the day Neil Armstrong made that small step turned giant leap on the surface of the moon.
“The night of the moon landing, my husband – they were little TVs then, and he put it in the window, the back bedroom window. We had a patio outside that window, and all the neighbours came to watch it,” said Ethier.
“Along with our two boys of course. Even all the neighbourhood kids. Our place was full. It was very exciting. Everybody was very excited about it.”
In browsing through the old papers, the excitement is palpable even through the yellowed paper.
A quote heading up The Telegram reads “this is phenomenal… it’s an achievement of mankind. I just hope people don’t look at it only for its technical aspects. It frees us from this life, this earth.”
The headlines that follow convey that sense of wonder and transcendence: ‘A night to forget about everyday things’; ‘50,000 in civic square, but roar was subdued’; ‘Applause from kings and commoners.’
A dose of realism tempers the optimism on a later page – a column by writer Gary Ralph cautions ‘That moon holiday is still years away.’
Though 50 years have passed, the moment still stands out clearly for Ethier. She recalls making snacks for the neighbourhood as they gathered around on her patio.
“I can still picture everybody there, watching it. I mean, it’s still in the memory. It’s one thing that’s stuck in the memory because it was so important. It was so important to us,” said Ethier.
Ethier never thought she would see anyone flying to the moon in her lifetime, let alone walking on its surface.
“Not when we were younger. Neither one of us ever thought that. The difference in airplanes and stuff was exciting enough,” said Either.
She also never thought she would see the changes that have taken place in the years that would follow.
“The changes have just been unreal. Who would have thought 50 years ago that life would be like it is now?” said Either.