My parents moved to this little home in Titusville, Florida, around 1958. I'm telling my age, but I was 4 years old at the time. Titusville is located in Brevard County which is nicknamed "the Space Coast" because it is located very near Cape Canaveral aka Kennedy Space Center. My Dad, like many fathers in the area, worked at the Space Center for Lockheed. If you have seen the Apollo 13 movie with Tom Hanks, you have a pretty good picture of what it was like in the early days in our area. Astronauts were like rockstars in those days....they were given corvettes to drive at a time that few people drove them and lived lavish lives. It was an exciting time in our history as the early launches were sailing off and dissappearing into the clouds.
It seemed that many of the early launches happened at night. I can remember watching the countdown from the control room on our black and white television. When the launch was "a go" and we heard the voice in the control room countdown "5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and lift off," we would head out to our front driveways and stand looking in the direction of the launchpad across the Indian River. At that time, everyone in the neighborhood would walk outside their homes and look up into the dark sky. Most of us were in our pajamas and robes. Suddenly, we would see a ball of light start coming up from behind the trees, and the sky would begin to light up in that area. The rumble would begin and you could hear all the windows in our homes shaking. I live in the Northwest, but have never been (thankfully) through an earthquake. I imagine that this is what a small earthquake would sound and feel like. As the rumbling continued, you could see the small ball of light in the sky start to climb upwards. As the missile launched off and became visible, you would hear people cheer and clap. Everyone would stand on their driveways, dressed in their robes, looking up and watching the missile heading up to the heavens until it was a tiny speck in the sky. Afterwards, the large vapor trail would be left behind.
I watched the first man walk on the moon from the black and white television inside this home....
My Father was in the Air Force prior to working for Lockheed. Although I was born in Florida, my Father started working for Lockheed not long after I was born. He began his career in Marietta, Georgia. After living in Georgia for a while, our family relocated back to Florida. My parents moved our family into the little home you see in the photos. At the time we moved into this home, it was a brand new home. We watched many of the homes around us being built. My Dad continued to work at the Space Center for Lockheed, which later became Lockheed-Martin, until the day he retired. I am proud of the fact that my Father spent his career helping to put men into space. He worked on many projects during his career and sometimes travelled to California on short trips to work on projects there. He received many awards and pins during his service. When you see the way Tom Hanks and the other actors dressed in the Apollo 13 movie, you are seeing my Dad. I have such memories of seeing my Dad head off to work in his collared plaid short sleeve shirt with a pocket, his crew cut haircut and black rimmed glasses. All the men carried those grey or black metal lunch boxes in those days. My Mother woke up early every morning to make his lunch for him and see him off for work. Like most women in those days, my Mother did not work and was a homemaker. I was always happy to see my Mother when I arrived home from school. She was a wonderful Mom and her family was her life.
My parents lived in this home in Brevard County, Florida, until the day that they died. My Mother passed away in June of 2008, and my Dad passed away in August of the same year. Both my parents passed away at home with children at their side. I was lucky enough to be able to be able to tell both my parents how much I loved them before they passed away. I am happy that both my sons got to spend a lot of time growing up around their grandparents and really got to know them. They were familiar with the same little house that I grew up in as a child. In today's world, people relocate a lot, and this is a rarity.
All the photos that you see in this posting of the launches, were made less than a month before my Dad passed away in August of 2008. My Dad had been battling parkinsons disease for quite some time. On the day of this shuttle launch, my brother and sister-in-law, my sister, my dad and I went out onto the driveway to watch this launch. This would be the last launch that we would ever watch together with my Dad. This was the last launch my Dad would ever see...
As you can see, the sky was very blue and beautiful on the day of this launch. My sister, brother and I decided to stand out in front of our childhood home for a photograph together. We didn't realize it at the time, but this would be our last picture together in front of our childhood home. I am so happy that we decided to make this photo. We are all very casually dressed because we had been working at the home that day and caring for our Dad. My sister is on the left of our brother and I am on the right. You can see the vapor trail above the home. I would like to mention, at this time, that my brother's career also has involved working on the Space Shuttle. My husband retired a few years ago as an Officer in the Navy and now works for Lockheed-Martin in Washington State. I am proud of the fact that all of the men in my life have been a part of history and that my two sons have gone into the math and science field.
What wonderful memories were made growing up in this small home. The little Space Coast beach town has changed very little since we were children standing on the driveway of this home watching the first missiles soar into space. Thank you Dad for helping to put missiles and men into space and on the moon. You were a part of history, and we watched it all from this little home.
In the next photo are my parents, James and Lillie Thompson, on the day my husband and I were married...
Here is a photo in the early 1980's of my parents with my older son and I. I was about 29 years old at the time. I lived in Houston, Texas, and was visiting my parents. This photo was made in the front yard of their home.
The next photo is of my Dad on the left with Astronaut Walter Schirra in the center. My Father was receiving a service award. In this photo, you can see one of the short sleeved pocket shirts that I always remembered my Dad wearing to work in those days. The man on the right was also receiving an award and worked with my Dad. Note: Walter "Wally" Schirra passed away in 2007. He was the only Astronaut to fly in all three of America's manned space projects---Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. "Wally" was one of the first seven original Astronauts--selected in 1959. He was the Commander of the first crew to fly into space aboard an Apollo capsule--Apollo 7--following the tragic launchpad fire that claimed the lives of the crew of Apollo 1." To learn more about this pioneer of space, Walter Schirra, please go to this site: Astronaut Walter Schirra
I am so happy that my parents had the opportunity to watch one of their grandchildren graduate from college before they passed away. This is my son that you see in the photograph above with me. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Florida. My older son is the eldest grandchild and the first to graduate from college. My parents were very proud of him, and they attended the graduation ceremony at the University. My younger son is in college, at this time, at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is studying Computer Engineering. I also have a niece attending college in Texas at this time. I wish my parents could have seen them graduate, as well, but I know they will be there in spirit and be very proud.
My Dad loved to fish. He had a lifelong passion for fishing along the St. Johns and Indian Rivers. He also loved to go practice shooting....which he called "plunking." Here is a photo, taken a few years ago, of me with my Dad and my younger son out in the country doing target practice. My Father used to take my siblings and I out "plunking" when we were about my son's age. My father taught us to respect the rivers and also to respect guns.
Next is a photo of a newspaper article that featured my Dad and several others getting awards for 25 years of service at Lockheed Missiles and Space. My Dad has the tinted glasses on and is standing on the far right.
My Dad fishing on the St. Johns River in Florida.
Me and the Volkswagen I drove in 10th grade to high school. This is not our home in the background. Our home is in front of me.
My Dad and I on the day my husband and I were married.
My Mother with my two sons and I several years ago. We were staying in a hotel on Cocoa Beach and celebrating my younger son's birthday. I lived in Houston at the time and was visiting the Florida area. This was taken in the early 90's.
My Father's name is engraved into the Gemini Monument along a public spacewalk park in Titusville, Florida, along the Indian River. It honors his service on the Agena projects. It also honors several other people who had service to the space program on this and other projects. If you look at this photo, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center across the Indian River. I am very proud of the fact that my Dad's name is on this monument which is lit up at night.
Me pointing to my Dad's name on the Agena section of the spacewalk monument that stands on display along the Indian River almost directly across from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Space Center.
Thank you for walking down memory lane with me today. Thank you, Dad, for your years of service at Lockheed (and Lockheed-Martin) and for being a part of history. This posting is dedicated to you. Thank you Mom and Dad for all the love... I love and miss you both....
I hope everyone has a beautiful day today. xoxo Kim
p.s. I didn't realize it at the time I began this posting, but I am publishing this post on the same day that Nasa announced which museums will receive one of the Space Shuttles....our Seattle Museum of Flight was on the list of possible recepients. Unfortunately, Seattle was not chosen, but we were proud to be on the list. Today, 30 years ago, the shuttle missions began. Thank you to the shuttles and the men and women (those living and deceased) that courageously gave their time (and some their lives) for space exploration, science and to better our world. We salute you today! Thank you! We will not forget...
If you have a friend or relative that has a name on the Gemini Monument, you can search for the name at this site: Gemini Monument list of names