GI Joe astronaut, the pool, and growing up with space heroes.

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January 23, 2013 by kittynh

When my husband and I were children, growing up in the 1960’s, we were children of the Cold War, we were children of a time of great social change, and most of all, we were children of the Space Race.

My husband and I tell our children about how when we were young everyone admired astronauts.  People weren’t just admiring of the profession.  As a teacher myself most small children today dream of becoming astronauts at some point.  But what we felt for astronauts was far more than “oh that would be cool to do one day.”

We knew the names of the astronauts.  We had posters of them and their rockets up on our walls.  My brothers would built model kits of rockets and display them.  I had cut out of LIFE magazine a photograph of the first “Space Child”, a young Russian girl that had a mother,Valentina Tereshkova, and father that were cosmonauts!  A  photograph of Valentina and her daughter posted on my bulletin board.  I was very aware that Russia had women going into space, while the United States didn’t!

Her parents had both been to space!  As a girl I had to look to the Russians for female role models.

Her parents had both been to space! As a girl I had to look to the Russians for female role models.

daughter two

I had her photograph up next to the American astronauts!

I wish I could have given my own children the experience I, and every other child of the 60’s, had of being awoken from sleep by my mom and carried out and placed down in front of the TV with my older brother.  My younger brother had not even been born yet.  Our TV set was black and white and sat on the floor.  It was about the size of a mini cooper, and had a screen encased in a lovely imitation walnut veneer cabinet.

You just didn't pick up a TV, these were HUGE!

You just didn’t pick up a TV, these were HUGE!

Children often just sat on the floor or lay down to watch TV.  My brother and I sat right in front of the TV screen and watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon.  The image was flickering, and not very clear, but we didn’t care. Far above us, on the moon, men were walking about.  No one spoke, we just watched, and I remember my mom crying.

It was a wonderful time to go to school, because everyone was talking about space and astronauts.  Our class, and I was quite young, had shot off rockets we had built from kits.  Every class followed the space program.  Like our bedroom walls at home, our elementary school walls had posters of rockets and astronauts.

I grew up in the Washington DC area.  My husband, growing up across the country in California had the exact same experience.  Even before we landed on the moon my husband was like almost every other boy, in love with the entire concept of space travel.  My husband’s favorite toy was his GI Joe astronaut with space capsule.

This was not meant to be thrown into a pool from a roof top.  All Mark had left was the record that came with the capsule.

This was not meant to be thrown into a pool from a roof top. All Mark had left was the record that came with the capsule.

My husband would climb onto the roof of his California home (which was not something his parents approved of) and throw Astronaut Joe into the family swimming pool.  Astronaut Joe survived more of these landings than any real astronaut, but sadly one day, the capsule failed.  A giant crack sent Joe to a watery grave.  I am sure that the GI Joe capsule was not intended to be thrown multiple times off a rooftop and into a pool. I am surprised it lasted past even the first splashdown.  My husband still talks about this toy, and I am tempted to order him one off of ebay, if I did not fear he would throw it from the deck of our house into the lake nearby.  It’s very difficult to find one of these in good shape as every little boy knew what this toy was really for, splashdown landings.

Part of me is quite sad.  I remember my teaching telling the class that when we were adults, we would all be able to go to the moon.  “It will be like travelling to Europe, you’ll just get on a space rocket and go to the moon!”  She also told us that many of us would probably decide we wanted to live on the moon.  We would be like the first people that settled the New World.  Neil Armstrong was Columbus, and soon settlers would follow to live in moon colonies.

As a child, I thought I could grow up and live on the moon.  I could also possibly wear cool uniforms.

As a child, I thought I could grow up and live on the moon. I could also possibly wear cool uniforms.

I’m still waiting for priceline to list a ticket to the moon at a price I can afford.  The early promises, of moon colonies and going on to Mars and Venus, have faded.  Still, it was an exciting time to be a child, when our heroes were men and women that conquered space.

Meanwhile enjoy my husband landing the lunar module at the MacAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH.

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