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Moonwalk Memories | Oakwood man lived just a 'few farms' from Neil Armstrong
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Homepage for One Small Step. One Giant Leap. Man's first moonwalk, 40 years later

I grew up in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the hometown of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. Wapakoneta is a small farm town in central Ohio with a population of 7,000. It is located 50 miles north of Dayton along I-75.

Neil grew up on a farm near Wapakoneta and Neil's parents lived just a "few farms" away from us.

In 1963, Neil came to my fourth-grade elementary school classroom and spoke about his experience in flying and the space program. He gave each one of us kids in my class an autographed picture of himself personalized for each one of us. He actually began flying small aircraft about five miles from my home in New Knoxville, Ohio, which had an open field for a runway. As a kid, I can remember seeing only a handful of small airplanes sitting near the one hangar.

I was a freshman in high school when Neil landed on the moon in 1969. I can remember coming home from school and being glued to the TV as we all listened to Walter Cronkite take us step-by-step through the moon landing, and then finally we saw Neil take that first step onto the moon. That was a huge deal for us since we all knew Neil.

I can remember when Neil came home a few months later and we had a big parade downtown for Neil. He was riding in the backseat of a convertible which came along after the high school band played and a few fire trucks rolled through town.

Well, Wapakoneta, Ohio, has never been the same since Neil landed on the moon. The town built the Neil Armstrong museum which was designed to look like the "moon" and can be seen from the highway (I-75). It has a lot of memorabilia from Neil's growing up; it even has his bicycle he rode as a kid, and advancing through to pictures of all the aircraft he flew as a pilot and also one of his spacesuits.

At the end of the tour of the museum, you are sitting in a dark, domed room that depicts looking up into the sky and can relive watching Neil as he took that first steps on the moon. Pretty neat.

Wapakoneta also took advantage of this big event. The local cheese factory, Fisher's cheese company, dyed some of their cheese green and sold it as "moon cheese." You could also buy souvenirs such as drinking glasses and I also remember a foot stool that had Neil's "footprints" on it.

My high school art teacher, Richard Chadwick, also designed the "Neil Armstrong postcard" which shows Neil in his space suit holding his helmet with a picture of the moon in the background.

Several years ago, my dad sent me the "Wapakoneta Daily Newspaper" from Neil's historical event. The headline read "NEIL STEPS ON THE MOON" and tells the complete story. It also tells about Richard Nixon making the phone call to the moon and talking with the astronauts. The paper is dated July 21, 1969. By the way, it cost 55 cents per week to subscribe to the newspaper.

I have the autographed picture of Neil Armstrong, the postcard, and the newspaper mounted and framed and hanging in my office at home now, and it always brings back good memories of growing up in Wapakoneta, Ohio. It is always a great ice-breaker when meeting someone new and they ask "so where are you from?"

Dave Baeumel is a resident of Oakwood.

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