From a daily column called Bulletin Board in the St Paul Pioneer Press this morning, July 25th, 2009:
Writes The Farm Boy of St. Paul: "Subject: Time and tide on the Sea of Tranquility.
"Walter Cronkite and the Apollo 11 moon landing are forever joined in my mind, thanks to a record I played over and over when I was just 6 years old. I dug out that little record last night and played it again, for the first time in decades. The two-sided, 7-inch, 33 1/3-RPM record is titled simply 'Man on the Moon.' It says it was put out by CBS News, but there isn't much other information. I don't know where my parents got it or how much it cost.
"The record tells the story of the moon landing, narrated by Cronkite, with audio excerpts from newscasts and sound bites (back before we knew what 'sound bites' were) from the astronauts and presidents Kennedy and Nixon. That such an event resulted in the production of a phonograph record — that means no pictures, kids — for posterity shows just how long ago it really was.
"The first moon landing was a BIG DEAL, even to someone who had just turned 6 years of age. Astronauts were heroes. I knew all about the space program (the way kids today know all about dinosaurs and polar bears, I suppose) and had even built a plastic model kit of the Saturn V rocket. The moon landing is one of my oldest historical memories.
"But time is a strange thing. My younger brother was born just months after that first moon landing, so he has no memory of it. To him, it's always been 'ancient history,' so to speak. That's the way it is for me when it comes to another 'Where were you when ... ?' event. I was just months old when President Kennedy was assassinated. I have no memory of it. By the time I learned of it as a historical event, about eight years had gone by — a lifetime. It was 'ancient history' to me; why were people still obsessed with it?
"Now it's been how long since 9/11? Eight years?
"I tend to think of as 'old' anything that was already in the past when I first learned of it. But anything that I became aware of at the time it was happening, my mind considers 'new.' That leads to some strange mental mathematics. For instance, if I hear a Rolling Stones song, my brain identifies it as either an 'oldie' or a 'new one.' Funny thing is, based on the age I started becoming aware of popular music, my brain thinks the Stones have only about 10 years of 'old' songs but 35 years of 'new ones.'
"Growing up, I thought of my own age as 'normal,' and everyone else was either 'old' or 'young,' in comparison to me as the standard. That point of view was challenged a few years after high school, when I ran into a teacher who didn't remember what year my friends and I had graduated. How could that be? Didn't he remember that we were the Class of '81? The best class ever? The culmination of years of education? The end of one era, and the beginning of another?
"No, he didn't remember that. Because it wasn't true. Not for anyone but us. To my teacher, we were just another class in a long career.
"Time doesn't stand still. People are born every day. There is no 'normal' age. As much as we like to talk about the past, the present and the future, it's all relative. Whose past? Whose present? Whose future? Eventually, we all become someone else's history."