“Three American astronauts Wednesday were blasted away from the tight embrace of the gravity of mother Earth into the strange environment of space in a mission which will, for the first time, leave the footprints of man on the sands of another world.”

If you had a spare dime on Thursday, July 17, 1969, you could have read those words by staff writer Joel Kirkpatrick on the front page of The Galveston Daily News. Kirkpatrick, along with Daily News photographer Travis Burgess, was reporting Wednesday, July 16, 1969, from Cape Kennedy on the historic NASA Apollo 11 mission, which sent Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins on a trip with destiny, or as Kirkpatrick would write three paragraphs later, Apollo 11 “will echo down through all the years of mankind.”

A quick glance at the rest of that Daily News front page would prove the newspaper was concerned with more than celestial happenings.

Galveston Independent School District’s board of trustees appointed Richard Streiff as Ball High School’s new principal.

In a separate story, higher on the front page, Joe Woolley was named Ball High School’s new head football coach — some things in Texas never change.

Perhaps the bigger news of the day, judging by the space The Daily News dedicated to its coverage, was the opening of a Kmart on Stewart Road and 61st Street.

The Daily News had three full pages on the opening of Kmart — two about Apollo 11.

The day before, Wednesday, July 16, the folks behind the new Kmart were very excited about the opening of their new 104,000 square-foot store, which featured 20,000 square feet devoted to grocery supermarket space and 2,500 square feet to a garden shop.

C.K. Bowles, vice president and southern regional manager of S.S. Kresge, the parent company of Kmart, was quite high on Galveston’s potential.

“We are firmly convinced the Galveston area is just beginning to realize its potential, and we fully intend to contribute significantly to its future growth.”

The Daily News’ lead editorial on page 2B agreed with Bowles.

Under the headline “Kmart Department Store Is Real Asset,” the editorial board wrote: “We welcome Kmart to Galveston. The new store is a real asset. It will contribute significantly to the ‘opening up’ of the West End of Galveston.”

NASA was a little less optimistic about its venture to the moon and The Daily News seemed to agree.

While The Daily News’ lead headline stated: “Space Agency Declares All Systems ‘Go’ For Apollo 11 Flight To Moon,” the jump line for the story read: “See FAILURE, Page 6.”

Turning to page 6, the jump headline stated: “Failure A Possibility U.S. Should Be Prepared.”

“Anytime you have a space vehicle with many million parts, there are a lot of elements that have to work right,” Mission Director George H. Hage said at a news conference at the time. “Nevertheless, project officials have done everything man can do to minimize the chance of failure.”

Of course, this was less than a year before the failed moon mission of Apollo 13 in April 1970, where failure was deemed “not an option.” It was also 26 years before the screenwriters of “Apollo 13,” William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert, completely made up the All-American can-do adage “failure is not an option.”

So, Hage’s skepticism, in retrospect, is understandable.

FRIDAY MORNING, JULY 18, 1969

Coarse language was not welcome at city hall, but it was OK for The Daily News.

On the front page of Friday’s edition under the headline “Mayor Schreiber Told: ‘Go To Hell,’” Daily News staff writer Linda Westerlage relayed the tense exchange between Mayor Eddie Schreiber and Jack Sayre.

Weeks earlier, it seems, Sayre had requested a zoning change from the council and Schreiber felt he “had been offensive to the council.” So, before Sayre was able to speak to the council, “to request permission to hold a protest parade or to picket City Hall,” the mayor wanted an apology.

This prompted, as Westerlage would write, “Sayre then expressed his opinion.”

Sayre then doubled down.

“Did you hear me? You can go to hell,” Sayre told Schreiber.

Sayre was removed from the council chambers by police and charged by Assistant City Attorney Louis Mathis with disturbing the peace. A bond was set at $200.

There was much less tension for the Apollo 11 crew as it was being made aware of a spacecraft following the capsule.

The Soviet’s Luna 15, an unmanned craft in close orbit to Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, was on a path to the moon.

Luna 15 was not seen as a strong threat to land on the moon, but was believed to be on a lunar mission to take photos of the moon’s surface and measure lunar gravity.

As expected, the grand opening of the Kmart was a big success. The 907-space parking lot was crowded.

The store manager’s wife, listed in the story by Daily News staff writer Jim Holman as “Mrs. Cliff Markley,” cut the official ribbon to open the store. An earlier ceremony included introductions of company, city and county officials and a presentation by the Galveston Chamber of Commerce Honor Guard. The new store prompted Eddie Weiss, admiral of the chamber’s Honor Guard, to say “he had seen the ‘wasteland’ acreage developed into a beautiful building.”

If you wanted to hit the town, there was plenty to do.

Movie buffs could see “The Wild Bunch,” at the Bayou Drive-In; “The Love Bug,” at Interstate’s State theater and “The Shoes of the Fisherman” was playing at the Martini.

For those who wanted to get a little gussied up, there was the “Fabulous! Sensational” Balinese Room. Bob Fletcher and Vicky Lano were in town “direct from Las Vegas.” Lynn and Gale were serving up “The Nashville sound.” Plus Billy “The Singing Man” Williams and his Famous Orchestra performed.

Most intriguingly, if you wanted to “join your friends in the roar of the 20s” where else would you want to be than Big Al’s Hotsy-Totsy at 26th Street and Seawall?”

Always the gracious host, Big Al offered “cold beer, set-ups and snacks.”

Patrons were encouraged to come by and “watch the Flight of Apollo 11 on BIG AL’S SUPER COLOR TV” and as Big Al always says, “You’ve never seen anything like it.”

If you just wanted to stay in, you could enjoy the season premiere of the summer replacement show “Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers.” The show was hosted by Dino’s daughter Gail Martin, Paul Lynde and Lou Rawls. The show was led off by “newcomer Albert Brooks with an amusing frog and elephant routine.”

SUNDAY MORNING, JULY 20, 1969

The Sunday edition of The Daily News introduced readers to a new word: Chappaquiddick.

The events surrounding a car accident involving two people, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne, garnered two stories in the newspaper.

On the front page under the headline “‘Mary Jo Was Kennedy Fan,’” an Associated Press reporter interviewed family and friends of Kopechne to tell the story of the “outgoing,” “very personable” 28-year-old woman who died while trapped in a car after it plunged off a small wooden bridge and was submerged at the bottom of a Massachusetts pond.

Kennedy survived the accident and in a story headlined “Teddy Escapes, Woman Drowns” he recounts what he could remember about an incident that ended presidential aspirations and took the life of a woman who, as her mother said at the time, “Was pretty well wrapped up in politics. That would have been her life.”

Under the headline “American Astronauts Spin Onward To Historic Target,” The Associated Press reported the astronauts entered lunar orbit and began testing the lunar module, Eagle, before the historic landing, which was scheduled for late Sunday night and into early Monday morning.

Armstrong said of the view of the lunar surface, “the view of the moon is really spectacular. It’s a view well worth the price.”

Some Galvestonians did not agree with the Apollo 11 commander.

In a story headlined, “Residents Comment On Apollo 11,” Daily News staff writer Wally Lewis, in a man-on-the-street story, found two men who had misgivings about the billions of dollars being spent by the space program.

Dr. Henry Jameson, president of the Galveston School Board echoed the sentiment of noted NASA critic the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, “We could be spending the money somewhere else.”

Texas City resident David Lyons, while excited about the mission, felt, “everybody will have to ask themselves whether we should spend so much on this or spend it to take care of the less fortunate on Earth.”

Lewis then noted in his report, “Everyone else expressed no such reservations.”

A Galveston woman identified only as “Mrs. Franklin B. Moon” said she “certainly has been watching it on TV. It’s very interesting.”

Dr. John McGivney, president of the Galveston College board of regents commented, “The moon shot represents the same spirit of conquest that led Columbus to discover the North American continent, Edison and other great scientists to make their contributions in science, all of which have led to a better life for their fellow man.”

Another Galveston woman, again identified only as “Mrs. D.E. O’Banion” was very interested in the Apollo 11 mission, but pointed out, “we have two televisions, but both are in the shop. We might go rent a TV, however.”

MONDAY MORNING, JULY 21, 1969

Apollo 11 lunar module was scheduled to land on the moon late Sunday night and The Daily News swore to its readers on Sunday’s front page “Monday Paper Will Carry Moon Landing.” Deadlines were pushed back three hours and the Monday front page fulfilled the promise … “MAN LANDS, TAKES FIRST MOON WALK.” The person laying out the front page even inserted two images of the moon in place of the “O’s” in the word “moon.”

There even seems to be the ghostly image of slain President John F. Kennedy superimposed over the first few paragraphs of Daily News staff writer D’eva Luthringer’s story from the Manned Spacecraft Center.

As pointed out in The Daily News’ television listings, TV Key-notes, “CBS, NBC and ABC are planning continuous coverage of the flight of Apollo 11 starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, July 20th, until 5 p.m. on Monday, July 21st.”

But after the serious news coverage was over, the networks planned to have a little fun with their Apollo 11 coverage.

Part of CBS’ post-moon landing special involved director/actor Orson Welles and CBS correspondent Mike Wallace discussing science fiction films.

NBC brought “Danny Kaye back to TV to help correspondents John Chancellor and Aline Saarinen host the four-hour special featuring dramatic readings about man’s impulse to explore beyond his horizons.”

ABC seemed to really want to cut loose.

Among segments featuring Duke Ellington performing his composition “Moon Maiden,” there would also be a discussion about Apollo 11 among 7- to 9-year-olds moderated by ABC news anchor Frank Reynolds. Rod Serling would lead a debate between science and science fiction writers and comedian Steve Allen would be “illustrating the moon’s role in song.”

It was probably best to stay in and watch TV. The Daily News’ weather forecast predicted fishing would be “poor.”

(1) comment

Bailey Jones

Little did KMart realize that Galveston's population had peaked and was beginning its long slow decline.

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