WAPAKONETA — When Neil Armstrong was a teenager, his family moved to Wapakoneta. It was here where he developed his love of flying. In fact, he got his pilot’s license before he could drive a car legally.
The life of the young Armstrong was the topic of a new WBGU-TV documentary, which premiered at Wapakoneta High School on Saturday.
“One Small Step, One Small Town —Neil Armstrong” was made possible through a national grant offered by PBS.
“There was a grant offered by WGBH in Boston, who does American Experience, and they’re doing a series called ‘Chasing the Moon.’ They offered small grants to PBS stations around the country, and we sat down in one of our meetings and said, ‘Jeez, it’s a no-brainer. Neil Armstrong came from our area,” said Anthony Short, executive producer of the documentary.
This look at the first man on the moon really focuses on Armstrong’s time in Ohio and is told by the people who knew him.
“It’s not about his time at NASA, and it’s not about his time at Purdue. It’s about his time in Upper Sandusky and then Wapakoneta,” Short said.
There were a number of things that surprised Short as they put this documentary together, marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
“As the story goes, he had skipped a grade, not to anyone’s knowledge,” Short said. “He had gone to the wrong classroom, and when the first grade card came out, he had gotten all A’s, but his parents looked at the grade card and they said, ‘Well this says fourth grade, and you should be in third.’
“So they went to the school and checked it out to see if it was wrong, and they said, ‘No he had done so well in fourth grade, they just left him.’”
Something else was a surprise.
”June, his sister, had said when they were children, Neil would get car sick. For somebody that went to the moon, it surprised me beyond words that he would get car sick,” Short said.
Another surprise was how busy Armstrong was.
“When he was in school here in Wapakoneta, he was working at least one part-time, job sometimes two part-time jobs. He played the baritone in the band. Had his own band called Mississippi Moonshiners, and at the same time was taking flying lessons,” Short said.
The crowd that packed the Performing Arts Center at Wapakoneta High School gave the 30-minute documentary a standing ovation.
WBGU-TV will air the documentary at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 25.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.