50 Years Later: Moon Landing Made Memories

Wheeling residents reflect on historic event

Photo by Joselyn King David Seals of Wheeling, left, and Steve Harvilla discuss the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing Friday morning at McDonald’s in Elm Grove.

WHEELING — Many Wheeling residents have memories of the Apollo 11 landing and man’s first steps on the moon, even if they did happen “many moons ago.”

The walk by astronauts Neil Armstong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin took place July 20, 1969 — 50 years ago today.

“When we were children, we always heard about the man in the moon. We never thought there would be a man on the moon,” said retired Ohio County Schools educator Jeanne Carter.

Carter said she vividly remembers the moonwalk and where she was when it happened 50 years ago. She was taking graduate classes at West Virginia University in Morgantown, and house sitting for a faculty member.

Others enjoying their morning coffee at McDonald’s in Elm Grove said they were in the military at the time.

William Atwell Sr. of McMechen was serving with the U.S. Navy in Charleston, South Carolina, on the USS Harwood 861 when the moonwalk took place.

“It was one of the greatest things that ever happened,” he said. “It was awesome. My dad always thought it was phony. He always said he would have liked to have seen a monster come out and grab one of those guys.

“But I kind of believed it. It helped America and showed we had the technology. It proved it. We always have to prove ourselves to other people.”

Steve Harvilla, a Wheeling native who now lives in Owensboro, Kentucky, was back visiting the area on Friday. He said 50 years ago he was serving with the U.S. Air Force, and watched the moon landing from Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in Takhli, Thailand.

“We saw it while we were working,” he said. “We were happy. All the military was happy. But the ones around me (Thailand citizens) had a hard time grasping it. I kept telling them, ‘A man just walked on the moon.'”

David Seals of Wheeling had served in the U.S. Navy, and remembers being told by the military not to wear his uniform in public after he returned for fear he might be spat upon or abused. He said the moon landing came at a time when America needed it.

“I watched it on TV, and everybody was proud and excited for the U.S.,” Seals said. “I don’t think there was a lot of pride in the country at that time because of Vietnam.

“But when that happened there was pride. Even people in Times Square stopped to watch.”

Harry Croft of Wheeling said he had just finished college in San Antonio and had just returned to Wheeling before the moonwalk.

“To me, it was a proud moment,” he said. “I visualized his (Armstrong’s) foot hitting the ground, and the dust from the moon coming up.

“But there was not a disturbance of the moon — it was more like we were conquering it, and it made me proud to be an American,” he said.

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