Remembering July 20, 1969.
The day men first stepped foot on the moon is one of those days when people remember where they were and what they were doing.
I am one of them, but probably for a different reason than most.
I was working for KXJB-TV in Fargo, had been for only a few months. My wife at the time, Mary Ann would be going to work in the Moorhead School System in the fall.
KX was a CBS affiliate, and while the world was anticipating this event, there didn’t seem like there was much to concern us. It was going to happen on Sunday, the 20th what would have been a day off, and we, like millions of other people would wait and watch as Armstrong and Aldrin made history later that night.
While it was supposed to be a day off, and we sort of had a viewing party planned, those plans changed when my boss, Dewey Heggen told me that we would be working that day, at least part of the day.
He told me that CBS was dispatching crews around the country to see what Americans were doing that day which would end that night with Armstrong setting the first foot on the moon.
So, Dewey told me we were going to go to Park Rapids, MN where a lumberjack contest was going on that weekend.
Park Rapids is in lake country about two hours east of Fargo, and we were to take our cameras and sound equipment and bring back images and sound from that event, and try to show people watching lumberjacks, saw, hack, cross-cut, chainsaw, climb poles and a lot of other lumberjacky things and send the film to CBS, where it would be viewed and might be included in a special on the event about a year later. I didn’t know this would happen, but years later every time when I would hear Monty Python doing the “Lumberjack Song,” I couldn’t help but smile.
That Sunday morning, we grabbed our gear and Dewey and his wife Marlys, Mary Ann and I headed for Park Rapids.
Once we go there, we knew what to look for what to shoot, and what might not work, and spent the better part of the next two hours filming the lumberjack activity.
My job was the shooter. Dewey would suggest something, I would shoot it. I would see something I thought be interesting I would shoot it.
I also made sure to get plenty of cutaways, which showed the audience members watching whatever event the were interested in. They would be helpful in editing later
After we agreed we thought we had enough that would give CBS an idea of what was going on that day in Park Rapids we packed our gear and headed for home.
The actual step on the moon wouldn’t come until almost 11:00 that night, but CBS had wanted these vignettes to help them produce a cross country picture of what Americans were doing that day.
One of the things I did do was to shoot a cutaway of Marlys and Mary Ann sitting in the front row of one of the small bleachers that were set up for viewers. Never really thinking it would make it into the CBS show.
Actually, I was doubtful any of the film I shot that day would make the cut.
Back in Fargo we stored the gear, and would ship the film to CBS the next day and get ready for the show to come later that night when we, like millions, would view that miraculous first step on the moon on a grainy, black and white TV set.
After that day, life went on, and the thought about what would happen to the film I shot that day faded, and I didn’t think about it anymore.
It was about a year or two later when I thought about it again, when CBS ran a special. I was covering a Fargo City Commission meeting and did not see it, but Mary Ann did. Turns out they did use some of the Park Rapids film including the cutaway that showed Dewey’s wife Marlys and Mary Ann.
So that’s why I remember where I was and what I was doing that sunny Sunday afternoon 50 years ago, and why it still makes me smile that I got some film on CBS
It’s really funny, but as I write this, I can see that frame of film as if I took it yesterday.
Sad note, Dewey’s wife Marlys died in 2017. Dewey, I think lives back in Fargo.
I’ll have to ask him some day if he remembers what he was doing the day Americans put a man on the moon.