Sunday, December 19, 2010

This Day in History, Apollo 17 man's last visit to the Lunar surface came to an end.

Considered one of the most memorable Apollo launches, the Apollo 17 blasted off from Launch Pad 39 at Kennedy Space Center on December 7, 1972. This was the first night time launch and it made a spectacular sight. The crew was made up by Command Module Pilot Ronald E. Evans, a civilian geologist Jack Schmitt and the Spacecraft Commander Eugene Cernan. They were launched into space from Cape Canaveral by a Saturn V Rocket.

As usual the CBS Newscaster Walter Cronkite was reporting live but he made one his most embarrassing gaffes of his career when he said that the night launch would "light up the sky like a firecracker. (There was a brief pause.) Uh, excuse me, Wally," Cronkite continued to guest commentator and former Astronaut Wally Schirra, "I should day, perhaps, like a roman candle."

Gathered at the launch viewing were hundreds of VIP’s and celebrities, the local paper reported
that celebrities were dime a dozen. Pictures in the press showed celebrities Eva Gabor pointing to the fiery liftoff and Frank Sinatra starry eyed and Jonathan Winter puffing on a stogey, all captioned with “everyone was bedazzled.”
There was enough confusion to go around. Assigned seating in the bleaches was not observed by some, as some people got it wrong. Former Florida Gov. Kirk got kicked out of a VIP stand for sitting in a taken seat, he had to leave as he didn't have a pass. Stumbling around the crowds looking confused was an Asian military man, his uniform draped with braiding, his shoulder festooned with stars ,he wandered around the bleachers lost, unable to communicate. An elderly woman, not a big shot, steered the general back to his seat. But he Saturn rocket headed off on a journey to the moon.

The lunar module made a soft landing in the Taurus-Littrow region of the moon. The headlines reported, “Landing Smoother Than Any” The newspaper dated December 12, 1972 reported astronaut Cernan as saying, 'It is Beautiful Out Here’. During the mission a mishap caused the fender on the Moon Rover to break and thus driving was difficult with lunar dust flying up at the moon rover riders. "I got to make a fender tonight," Astronaut Gene Cernan said. "Man I hate this dust." Radio communications with Houston Control resulted in a solution where a map was folded in such a way and duck taped to make a temporary fender, and it worked.

Traveling along the moon surface an interesting discovery was made, orange soil in a crater. Astronaut Jack Smitt hesitantly suggested the strange appearing soil might have originated from a volcanic type vent, but added "But I hate to even suggest it." After all the experiments had been performed it was time to return to Earth. A short ceremony was held to end this final Apollo mission to the Moon. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt unveiled a plaque commemorating all six Apollo landings on the moon and acknowledging all the ground crews that made this scientific achievement possible.

"This valley of history has seen mankind completes his first evolutionary steps into the universe," geologist Schmitt said, "leaving the planet earth and going forth into the universe. Cernan recognized the support of the ground crews and workers. He concluded his farewell, “God willing, We'll Return”.

A letter from NASA director Kurt H. Debus on December 19, 1972 congratulated everyone. ‘I think it was entirely appropriate as Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt positioned the American Flag on the moon that it was dedicated to all those people who made the Apollo lunar landings possible. It was quite a tribute and well deserved one for all of you. Sincerely, Kurt H.Debus.

US Space Walk of Fame museum in Titusville
FLORIDA TODAY December 1972
Photo credit: NASA Archives

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Post Offices of Artesia; Geocache marks the spot.

Once upon a time there was a little township called Artesia. As with any town it had its own post office which not only served as place to distribute mail but also a place for the citizens to get together and share local news.

The last remaining Post Office of Artesia and perhaps the last remaining vesitage of this little township is a small cinder block structure on North Atlantic Ave in present day Cape Canaveral. This little building replaced the original Artesia wooden post office built in 1891. The original postmaster of this little structure was Elizabeth Holmes.

The history of these Post Offices is well documented with Library Of Congress archives. The original Artesia Post Office's application was made April 1891 by J.H. Hogan to the postmaster of Canaveral. The document was recorded May 17, 1891 and reported the nearest post office as Courtenay but the Canaveral Post office was the main link. The Artesia office was 7/8 miles in a northerly direction to continue route 16233. The nearest creek was Banana Creek and nearest river Banana River. Population of Artesia at time of application was listed about 30 persons. Application was signed by Henry Wilson the postmaster at the Canaveral Post office.

The next postmaster to serve was Elizabeth B. Eberwein. A form she filled out listed the office as East side of the Florida East Coast Railroad and at a distance of ten miles from the track. The railroad station name was Eau Gauie Fd in a document dated February 26, 1915. Elizabeth J. Holmes daughter of the previous post master made application January 31st to change the location. The proposed change of the location of the office was one mile North of the present location. The nearest office on the same route was Cocoa Beach.

A photo a woman delivering a letter in Artesia's 9 by 12 foot post office was published in a Miami Herald article dated 4-13-1952. The article entitled "Woman follows mother in job." The caption mentions that Elizabeth Holmes succeeded her mother as postmaster. "It may be the smallest in the state or even the nation - but Mrs. Holmes doubts it. The articles ends with announcements that this post office will have to be relocated because of plans for the development of the Long Range Missile Range. After it was relocated a concrete slab building was built to replace it. Site is a location along the Cape Canaveral Heritage Trail.

Florida Master Site file number is BR02570.
GPS coordinates N 28 24.193 W 80 36.251

Thursday, October 21, 2010

President Harding visit marked by Historical-Geocache

Ray Osborne's series on Presidential visits to Florida continues with the visits of Warren Harding. This President loved vacationing in the Sunshine State.

An examination of his visits reveals a President who values his leisure activities with golf, fishing and being just a good ole' boy.

President Warren Harding spent a considerable amount of time in Merritt Island and Daytona prior to his Presidency. The historic newspaper Cocoa Tribune and Indian River Advocate have accounts of his visits to these areas. President Harding was an avid golfer and sports fisherman, and would often sail aboard a luxurious vessel into the area. The Indian River Advocate reported on February 11, 1921 that he arrived onboard a boat called the Victoria. However it got stuck in Mosquito Inlet and wallowed in the mud the better part of two days. At one point President Harding got out of the vessel and stretched his legs in Titusville at the recently built Gulf Refining company wharf, He he shook hands with a hundred or more of his Titusville constituents. He took a ride in a "for hire' Ford with its driver and bought some mullet from a local fisherman.

In March 1923, The President and First Lady returned to Florida for a short vacation. The President was to get in a round of golf in Rockledge and some other choice golf courses in Florida. Both the President and the First Lady were in a weakened physical condition. Mrs. Harding had narrowly escaped death from nephritis in October 1922 and the President's health was causing concern to his doctors. Breathing difficulties made it impossible for him to lie flat in bed at night and he complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. Playing golf with his aide, Colonel Edmund Starling, President Harding complained, 'Why, after playing eleven or twelve holes do I drag my feet and feel so tired: To Starling's suggestion that he should play fewer holes in future, Harding retorted, "Hell if I can't play eighteen holes I won't play at all."

The Cocoa Tribune reported President Harding’s arrival on beautiful houseboat called "Pioneer" on March 8, 1923. At a gathering of local businesses and city officials, Cocoa Beach real estate developer Gus Edwards presented the President and Mrs. Harding with a deed for an ocean-front lot at Cocoa Beach, inviting them to make their home when President Harding retires from the most important job in the US.

Unfortunately President Harding was never able to take him up on this offer as he died during his administration that same year.

Visit the President Harding's Oceanfront Lot Historical-Geocache


Monday, October 18, 2010

Cocoa Beach Pier: 50 years of seaside history, geocache location

As Space Coast residents celebrated the achievement of becoming a spaceport not far away another group of entrepreneurs built their dreams, a pier that would launch into a Coney Island type seaside resort. The construction of Canaveral Pier began in February of 1962 and was completed in October with a price tag in excess of $150,000.

This venture was started by five Brevard businessmen. Two of the partners were Charlie Moehle, a dredging expert, who along with Rick Stottler who founded the Brevard Engineering Company in 1959. With the experience of many local civil engineering projects they unveiled their new 800 foot fishing pier on 270 pine-leg pilings. There wasn't much to it just a bait shop and a grill and typical of business start-ups there were many financial headaches." Back then, things were happening and looked like they would keep happening." said Charlie Moehle ,the pier's
architect. "The idea was to expand along the beach and do additional concession and rides.”

The first sign of success was reported on October 29th when the Cocoa Tribune published an account of a near record catch from the pier, a ten pound Spanish Mackeral, the fish was just 1/8 from the world record. But the Pier was destined to become more than a place for catching great fish but an enterprise housing budding businesses, a surfers’ mecca, and a bandstand for heart pounding rock and roll groups.

One of the first businesses to set up a storefront at the pier was Ron Jon’s. Vice President of the company at the time, Janice Baugher gave an interview in 1986 to a high school journalist where she shared her description of the early days of Ron Jon’s. “It all began in 1963 when owner Ron Dimenna brought a truck full of merchandise and settled in Brevard County to open a surf shop. The truck was his home for six months.“ said Baugher. With just $5,000, founder of Ron Jon’s opened a small store on the Canaveral Pier and stocked it with Levis, Rainbow Sandals, one small rack of bikinis and baggies, and surfboards.”

The shop was DiMenni's home for two years while he built up his business. "It's not just about opening a store and immediately becoming successful." stated Baugher. "This is a very long success story. Had it failed, he simply would have tried again." But it didn't fail. The beach was young and progressive, and the small shop flourished. Later due to growth Ron Jon’s moved from the pier to Third Street North, and then to the corner of 520 and A1A in 1967.

Tom Wasdin became a part owner in 1967. Under Tom's management the enterprise began billing itself as a haven for teen-agers and their beloved surfboards. In those days, it was more for young people," Wasdin said."We promoted it as the Surfing Capital of the East Coast."

A nightclub called The Asylum at the pier featured a psychedelic light shows and blaring rock music. Started in 1968 this promotion was short-lived as the popularity waned. A major remodeling job was undertaken in 1975 to attract more families. The new manager Doc Kelly wanted to get a mix of the old and the new. "Were doing the whole thing, repairing, remodeling. We're making the bar look like the inside of a ship. We’ll call it Man-O-War." Said Doc Kelly. "We're setting a 20 by 12 foot plastic clear insert in the middle of the floor. The folks will be able to sit there and eat seafood and watch the surf wash underneath them. Next year we want to get the (surfing) pros in here, offer $1,5000 to $2,000 in prizes." The pier and surfing flourished and in 1985 the name was changed to Cocoa Beach Pier to reflect the name of the city it was located in.

A Geocache is located outside the pier for the GPS enthusiast. Located underneath the boardwalk by the welcome sign.


Ron Jon "Hangs Ten for 23 ” by Kimberley Cook.
The New York Times 1962
Cocoa Tribune 1962

Author welcomes feedback from readers.

Previous comments made.

Lori Stottler> There was a nightclub with a dance floor that lit up entirely (very funky for the time) called the Asylum. In the beginning cars could drive right on up the Pier. There have been a host of musical acts that have played at the Pier: Beach Boys, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Flock of Seagulls, UB40, Edgar Winter Band, Ratt, Maxi Priest, Banto Panton, Ziggy Marley….just to name a few. Kelly Slater used to surf the Pier break as well as many other surfing legends did previously like Murf the Surf. Many astronauts have visited the Pier: Alan Shepard, Robert Cripton etc.

Gile Malone>Giles Malone became Pier GM in 1986 and met with the then Mayor of Cocoa Beach, Bob Lawton and decided to change the name to the Cocoa Beach Pier as that was the city of origin. The Tourism Development Council of the Space Coast joined in the renaming celebration with Malone, Lawton and Pier Director of Marketing, Wendy Ellis. In 1991, Malone designed and built a new 90-foot long gift shop called Ocean Notions and worked with Joel Brown Construction to get it built with the cooperation of the City. Over the next ten years, Malone created several additions to the Pier including the Atlantic Ocean Grill Restaurant Banquet Room, the Boardwalk Bar, the Mai Tiki Bar (at the easternmost end of the Pier in cooperation with Wayne Coombs, owner of the Mai Tiki Gallery in Cocoa Beach), Oh Shucks Seafood Bar, Sea Dogs Concession and Rickys Ice Cream Parlor and Family Fun Center.

Can you share any memories of your days to the pier? Your comments are welcome.

View the Pier now through this Webcam