There was a newspaper article recently noting Feb. 19, 1962, the 54th anniversary of America’s first astronaut’s flight around the world in outer space. There, Russia, you and your Sputnik!
We had another name, John Glenn, to add to those of Charles Lindberg, Robert Byrd and Lewis and Clark on our roster of heroes.
It was a day of general excitement, but for me, it was a day of sadness. My grandfather was buried. The article awakened memories.
After the funeral, as family members sat around in the big country kitchen, my great-uncle spoke of his older brother, commenting on the many changes he had seen during his life.
Born in 1870, Granddaddy had witnessed the area’s recovery after the Civil War, seen come into use the telephone, electricity, the automobile and airplane, radio and television. Uncle Emmett thought it appropriate he was buried on the day man flew into space.
Always aware and interested, I can imagine Granddaddy’s wonderment had he ever seen an iPhone. Not long before he died, commenting on the astronaut’s flight, he said “I hope that young man makes it.”
Thinking back on that day brought to mind a story my father told, with great humor, about showing his new father-in-law, Granddaddy Davis, the miracle of airborne sound through the new instrument, a radio.
In 1921, religious services were broadcast for the first time over a radio station, KDKA, in Pittsburgh — the Sunday service of the Calvary Episcopal Church.
Daddy was always big on anything new, and had acquired an early radio, a box-like thing he had brought along when he and my mother, who had just been married in August, 1921, came to spend the weekend with her parents in rural Virginia.
Daddy waited until Sunday morning, after Mama, Grandmother, and aunts had gone off to church, before he brought the gadget in and set it up on a table in front of Granddaddy.
There was no electricity so the battery had to warm up first. Then, after turning it on, Daddy started turning the two dials, called cat whiskers, very gently and slowly to pick up, bring in, and clear up, the sound. Granddaddy leaned forward anxiously. Daddy got it all lined up and the first sound burst forth:
Daddy had tuned into KDKA, the Calvary Episcopal Church service.
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Marjorie Stone is a member of The Messenger's Board of Contributors and co-author of Getting to Know Athens County and author of As Time Goes By: A Pictorial Journal of Athens, Ohio.