Locals celebrate, recall moon landing on 50th anniversary

WARREN — After the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 was sent into orbit in 1957, Carl Antonelli of Champion said he and two friends started building rockets in a basement on Terra Alta Street and launching them at the old Trumbull County fairgrounds, now Warren G. Harding High School.

He said he learned how to build the rockets from books checked out of the public library in Warren, where more than 60 years later he recalled watching Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon during a celebration of the historic event Saturday afternoon.

“I was at Camp Casey in Korea. We had the day off for watching the event live on television,” said Antonelli, who was in the U.S. Army. “Being out of the United States, but being a United States citizen, I was very proud.”

The Warren-Trumbull County Public Library marked the day by showing a short documentary and asking people to share their memories of the July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 moon landing.

Sandy Sarsany of Champion said she recalls waking up her kids to watch the event on television.

“We had a black-and-white portable TV,” Sarsany said. “I remember trying to explain (to the kids) what was happening.”

The library had space-themed coloring pages for adults and kids, who were invited to drink Tang, a flavored drink marketed in powdered form and first popularized by NASA’s Mercury astronauts.

Adult services librarian Mary Jo Kachurik said the event was meant to encourage people to learn something, revisit memories and open discussion about the impact of past space travel and the potential for more — such as one day sending a manned flight to Mars.

In Champion, residents of Windsor House’s Armstrong Memory Care Assisted Living Center also celebrated the moon landing with crafts, entertainment and a walk through a decorated “Moon Room.”

“Our name is Armstrong Memory Center after Neil Armstrong,” said center Director Andrea Baltes, who cited Armstrong’s ties to the Warren / Champion community.

Neil Armstrong attended first grade for half a year in Champion, according to Trumbull County historian and educator Wendell Lauth of Bristol, who attended the event to answer questions about the moon landing.

“His father was a state auditor, it took him all over the state. He happened to be here when Neil was ready to start school,” said Lauth. “They’ve since torn down the Champion school he attended.”

It was during his time in Trumbull County that a 6-year-old Armstrong took his first ride in an airplane at the now-memorialized area along Parkman Road NW in Warren, Lauth said.

And the rest is history.

“It was amazing. Terrifically amazing,” said center resident Joan Smith of the moon landing. “I’d not seen anything like that before.”

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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