By Scott Sullivan
Fifty years ago The Commercial Record was celebrating its 100th holiday season and the world was casting its eyes to the sky, not all of us seeking Santa.
The first men ever to leave the Earth’s field of gravity were nearing the moon. On flickering TVs we watched Apollo 8 send back pictures, among them an Earthrise over the lunar surface.
Our world appeared small and fragile against the black void. Bright and beautiful. “We came all this way to explore the moon,” said astronaut William Anders, one of three who performed 10 orbits of it, “and we discovered Earth.
I was 13, near the end of a year that had scored me. First Grandma died. My parents didn’t discuss her cancer until it was time to drive 200 miles to join her for her last days … and to celebrate my birthday.
My first sight of Grandma at life’s end has never left me. She called me into her room on her last night. I held her hand, terrified. When I woke up the next morning Dad was weeping. I’d never seen that either.
My parents rallied during the day to buy cupcakes and give me a handful of ill-wrapped presents. Grandpa’s was a kid’s toy. Grandma would have known I was practically a grown-up.
We got home and soon came a newsflash between Vietnam War footage: Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. Race riots followed, the last thing he would have wanted.
Teachers feared I wouldn’t reach my potential, but they were wrong. I had none. Algebra seemed unimportant, so I tried to get everything wrong on a test and scored 6 of 100. I couldn’t even get that right.
A long, hot summer saw Bobby Kennedy killed, Chicago police clash with demonstrators during the Democratic Convention … it all played out on TV. So did The Beverly Hillbillies, Lawrence Welk and The Match Game. By Christmas I was still alive, which I figured I’d be at least till I got my draft card.
Santa had long since been off my radar. Then I heard men were going to the moon. I watched Christmas Eve as black-and-white images screened of its desolate, cratered surface. Then Earthrise also.
“From the crew of Apollo 8,” said Commander Frank Borman from 240,000 miles away, “we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”
The astronauts — James Lovell was the other — got back alive and still are. As is The Commercial Record, a newspaper I knew nothing about 50 years ago. I know even less now after 13 years as its editor, although I’ve gleaned evidence to realize my potential to misconstrue it.
Among failures I did not enjoy during the time in between was being editor of a newspaper that went broke after 13 years. There are easier ways to learn business economics, but the lessons it taught about solving self-pride equations lasted — until I forget them again, at least.
Lovell said on beholding Earthrise, “That’s our spaceship. We had better take care of it.” The same might be said of our closer “worlds”: our communities, families, friends and endeavors to serve them.
The astronauts’ view showed an Earth of oceans, deserts, forests, farmlands cities and ice fields. It is home, too, to humans who ourselves contain worlds of memories, needs, joys, sorrows and hopes that in their own right can be so encompassing that the thought we are small in comparison eludes us.
The CR enters its next 150 years humbled by the opportunity to draw on our community’s rich history and resources —natural and human — to move forward.
Fifty years ago I was more frightened of coming into my manhood than now when I know most of it’s behind me. I also see that, just as the Earth is round, the beginning and end aren’t separate. The lines between us will reconnect us.
Happy 2019 to all.