The summer of 1969 was an historic time in American pop culture. Those alive during the time recall the first time humans set foot on the moon and the iconic Woodstock music festival that drew hundreds of thousands to Bethel, New York.
The new year marks the 50th anniversaries of these two events and Queens residents still carry the memories with them half a century later.
From July 16-21, 1969, viewers watched in wonderment as astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins embarked on the Apollo 11 space mission.
“I remember I was staying at my godmother’s out east and we watched it and I remember asking are they really on the moon or is it filmed in a studio,” Donna Stewart Prudenti told QNS on Facebook. “Everyone was watching and it was so quiet. Now thinking back how extraordinary it was and the silence from the adults was because they were in awe!”
Queensborough Community College (QCC) alum Robert Guillot, known as “Rocket Man”, became obsessed with space when he saw Sputnik from his home in Queens Village. His fascination led him to a career as a space scientist at NASA who test-fired rocket engines at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
“My skin was covered with goosebumps in anticipation during the launch; I was overwhelmed with a sense of personal pride as the astronauts orbited the moon and prepared the lander, and then I struggled with intense anxiety during the soft landing and blast-off from the moon, the most dangerous phase of the mission. It was only when the astronauts re-entered earth’s atmosphere that I finally felt some relief,” Guillot told QCC in 2009.
Guillot added that Armstrong and CBS anchor Walter Cronkite were the two figures who he most closely associated with the Apollo 11 mission.
“Armstrong is one of the most famous names in the history of mankind — a national hero and a national treasure,” said Robert. “Cronkite was the voice of that era and single-handedly fixated the country on this momentous event. He was the most trusted man in the country and will forever be inextricably linked with the moon landing.”
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the United States Mint is issuing four coins: a $5 gold coin, a silver dollar coin, a clad half dollar coin and a five-ounce proof silver dollar coin. The coins will be released on Jan. 24, 2019.
A month later, 400,000 people gathered in Bethel, New York for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair from Aug. 15 to 17. Music fans were treated to memorable performances from Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Ravi Shankar and Jimi Hendrix whose rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner remains iconic to this day.
Also on the festival performance roster that year was Astoria-born musician Melanie Safka. Known eponymously as Melanie, the singer was one of three solo female artists to perform at the festival along with Baez and Janis Joplin. The artist’s appearance at the festival reportedly inspired her 1970 hit song “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”.
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts just announced that they will be marking the 50th anniversary of Woodstock with an anniversary festival. From August 16-18, organizers will put on the “Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival: Celebrating the golden anniversary at the historic site of the 1969 Woodstock festival,” which will feature a slate of unnamed performers as well as “TED-style talks.”