In between Friday and Saturday July 17th and 18th 1969, as Apollo 11 slipped silently from earth's gravitational influence and into the grip of the moon, most 12 year olds across the nation were doing exactly what I was doing- slipping silently from a summer Friday to a summer Saturday.
Saturday found Apollo 11 seeming to have ever annoying high gain antenna problems as they approached the moon and prepared for LOI. Communications were filled with static as the morning went on. Here on earth, the antenna on our family TV was set just right to catch the most important communication that a kid could receive on a Saturday morning- cartoons.
My Saturday's usually started at dawn with a non-cartoon- the Army's morning rerun of "The Big Picture." These were all outdated and often in black and white, but they had tanks and explosions- so what kid could resist? Then Saturdays really kicked in with Go-Go Gophers cartoon on channel 25 (UHF) at 8:00 followed by the Buggs Bunny and Road Runner Hour, which I tried never to miss. At 9:30 the cartoons went into "blah" mode with channel 25 airing Wacky Racers, channel 12 showing the Adventures of Gulliver and channel 5 playing Top Cat. Yet on a summer Saturday this mattered little as normally mom booted me out of the house to "Go outside and play" during the first 15 minutes of Road Runner anyhow.
On this Saturday we all knew that Apollo 11 was up there as the networks were broadcasting "Special Reports" on the LOI and any other activity they could break in for. As I recall, I was still in amazement of the previous day's video showing the inside of the LEM and the crew floating around. Outside, in on kid turff, one of the kids in the neighborhood had a sort of spaceship toy and kept buzzing it around. There was a real scarcity of "realistic" Apollo toys at this moment in history. Most were simply cheap plastic rockets that resembled 50s sci-fi special effects yet had the label "Apollo" hastily pasted on them to spike sales. In retrospect, I don't think any of the toy manufacturers really saw coming the wave "Apollo fever" that was currently sweeping the nation. We kids talked about tomorrow's moon landing, we pretended as best we could to be a part of that upcoming event, and yet we knew very little about what was actually happening. Still, some of us were beginning to deeply sense the importance of this moment and instinctively know that the next moment would be even more important. Perhaps it would be even more important than today's episode of "The Archies" cartoon... perhaps.
Of course the real classic season of 60s Saturday morning entertainment would not begin until the Fall of 69 when the three networks would release shows like "Hot Wheels" "Scooby Doo" "Banana Splits" and my personal favorite "The Pink Panther" which I liked because it was the sickest. There would also be the return of "The Monkees" to Saturday morning just to expand our horizons. All of these shows, however, would be a side bar to Apollo 12 rather than Apollo 11 but, by that time, Project Apollo would be well on its way to cancellation.