With the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing just around the corner, The Herald Journal had occasion to look back at the front page of our paper on the day after that monumental event of June 20, 1969.
The headline was a bit disappointing. Instead of shouting from the rooftops “A Giant Leap for Mankind” or even “Man Walks on Moon,” the Herald Journal headline anticlimactically announces in modestly sized type: “Victorious Moon Pioneers Ready Home Flight.”
The problem for The Herald Journal — then an afternoon paper put to bed around noon each day — was that the moon landing and astronaut Neil Armstrong’s historic step happened very early in the latest news cycle, so by the July 21 press time, the big event was “old news” in a sense, and the paper was trying to give readers the latest update. That update was that the astronauts were getting ready to depart after 21 hours on the lunar surface.
Looking back on that front page, it’s interesting to note the news story in the bottom-left corner about another impactful event in modern American history. It tells of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy being charged with leaving the scene of a car accident following the death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne. The infamous crash that took Kopechne’s life on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, happened just two days earlier than the moonwalk and forever tainted the career of the youngest brother of John F. Kennedy, the president who ironically launched our nation’s quest to put a man on the moon.
Some other national and international headlines from that day’s Herald Journal dealt with the Vietnam War, the Arab-Israeli War and the achievements of sports stars Joe Namath and Billy Jean King — all things Americans still talk about to this day. The late 1960s were some heady times!