The banner that flew from the Clairidge Theater marquee 50 years ago.
The banner that flew from the Clairidge Theater marquee 50 years ago.

Exactly 50 years ago this week, humanity achieved one of its greatest technological feats when astronauts Neil Armstrong and 1947 Montclair High School graduate Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the surface of the Moon.

Montclair will be celebrating the anniversary of that momentous event this Saturday (see information below); but before the big celebration, we asked our readers to send us their personal memories of July 20, 1969. 

If you would like to share your moon landing memories, please email and we will include it in our July 25 issue.

On my father’s lap

I can tell you exactly where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon 50 years ago. I was curled up in my father's lap, watching and waiting through those endless hours between the time the lunar module touched down and the hatch finally opened. The only problem was that it was well past midnight Eastern time when Armstrong took those first historic steps, possibly even past 2 a.m. I say this because that 8-year old boy who was patiently waiting had succumbed to sleep long before history was made right before his slumbering eyes.


Remember rabbit ears?

I was working at Howard Johnson's on the Parkway (now McDonalds). Someone brought in a black-and-white portable TV, and we set it up on a counter, adjusted the rabbit ears and tuned in. Wait staff, cooks and customers all crowded to watch the grainy picture ... a vivid memory!


Forward in time

In 1969 I was 22 years old and was living in Northern California near Yosemite. I was a bit of a flower child. My boyfriend had gotten us evicted from our house for unknown (to me, at least) reasons and we were staying temporarily with an old man named Sully who lived in a cabin in the woods with no running water. There was electricity, though, and a TV, and we watched the moon landing. The next morning I went out early to use the outhouse and the moon was still visible. I looked up and marveled that there were real live actual men on the moon at that very moment. 

I don’t know how long I stared up at the sky, but I was jolted out of my reverie by a loud “AH-OOO-GAHHH!” and I turned around to see about 10 old touring cars filled with people dressed in turn-of-the-century driving clothes out for a drive down the country roads. 

I felt like I had jumped both forward and backward in time simultaneously (does that make any sense?) It was a very surreal experience and I remember it so clearly even after 50 years. 

Liz Saron Milner

A family affair

My most vivid memories are of the speech by President Kennedy, when I had just started high school in Newark, challenging the nation to put a man on the moon within the decade of the 60s, and committing the United States to be first in space with the massive NASA program. We all got so caught by this unifying goal and waited only eight more years to see it accomplished in 1969! I watched the landing on my grandmother’s black and white TV in Bloomfield, with brothers, sister, cousins, aunts and uncles, mom and dad, all as excited as never before. We all felt a great pride in knowing a New Jersey resident from a neighboring town, Buzz Aldrin of Montclair, was the second astronaut to step on the surface of the moon. I’m so glad we finally renamed our middle school to honor our hometown hero and I hope we never forget the President who started America on the way to putting Buzz Aldrin on the moon! 

Bob Russo

‘Buzz City’

I remember watching the moonwalk, and hearing Neil Armstrong’s words. And I also remember the wonder in Walter Cronkite’s voice as he intoned, “Live from the surface of the moon!”

And after when Buzz Aldrin came back to Montclair for the parade, I remember my friend wanting to rename Montclair, “Buzz City”. Have to admit he was not entirely sober at the time!


Banner riding high

I remember how excited my dad, Paul Petersen, was when Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. And he was equally excited for the parade that Montclair had for Buzz. I’ve included a picture of the banner that flew from the Clairidge Theater marquee (see above) – my dad owned and operated the Clairidge for many, many years. I still have the banner.

Beverly Petersen Jennison

Silver Spring, Md.

Join Montclair's party

Montclair will host an Apollo 11 commemoration event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Montclair’s own Buzz Aldrin becoming the first men to step onto the surface of the moon. The commemoration will take place on Saturday, July 20, 10 a.m. to noon, at the Montclair Public Library, 50 South Fullerton Ave.

Mayor Robert Jackson will read a proclamation in recognition of Aldrin and the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

There will be giveaways of the Aldrin book “Reaching for the Moon,” distributed on a first-come-first-served basis, as well as a special drawing for “To the Moon and Back: My Apollo 11 Adventure,” the 2018 book by Aldrin and Marianne Dyson.

To acknowledge Buzz Aldrin’s academic accomplishments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) where he received his doctorate in 1963, Yin Chang, co-founder of L3 Academy – a Montclair learning center that offers STEM programs for kids – will have team members from the academy’s award-winning robotics club provide demonstrations.

Rags Buchner, who heads up Boy Scout Troop 40 in Rahway, will have his Apollo 11 spacecraft replica on display in front of the library.