Monday, September 25, 2023




Skylab 3:


For most of the month of September 1973 Skylab 3 seemed to, again, nearly drop from the news completely. Personally for me, a huge transition took place in that same period of time. I was headed for high school and the high school that I had been headed for was one of the worst in mid-Michigan. Knowing that a smart ass like their son would quite likely get knifed within a week at that school, my parents did the only thing that they could; they sold our house in Sheridan Park and the entire family moved. Of course that up-rooting did not happen immediately. Instead, they bought a home that was under construction in the little farm town of Freeland, Michigan. I had an aunt and uncle who resided there and it was arranged that I could start high school in Freeland and live with my relatives until our new house was finished. Thus, I took up residence in the bedroom left behind by one of my grown cousins and started attending a school where actual learning took place and you could walk the halls in safety. We were on a “half-day” schedule and classes started at 6:50 in the morning, but got out at noon. That left plenty of time in the afternoons for space stuff. The only problem was actually finding the space stuff. Jack Lousma conducted a protracted TV tour of the Skylab in the closing days of the mission, but only small bits of that were broadcast by the national news media. It was almost as if Skylab was not aloft at all.

On September 25, 1973, the reentry and splashdown of Skylab 3 was scheduled for 7:19 p.m. Eastern Time. I had spent much of that Tuesday afternoon listening to the radio’s news reports of the progress of the returning crew.

I also had plenty of time to ponder the fact that my cousin had spent some effort scribing with a ballpoint pen little late 1960s hippie whimsies about “love” on the mortar joints between the bricks of his bedroom walls. “How little I know about love, but how much I wish I knew,” and crap such as that. Since I was not really a part of that stoned, flower child movement, I found the writing to be a bit odd. Of course, I was about to do something odd myself as I grabbed my tape recorder and set it up to catch the reentry and splashdown of Skylab 3 on TV.

As I was setting up the recording equipment my aunt came into the room and asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was getting ready to record the Skylab 3 splashdown.

“Well, what do you wanna do that for?” she asked condescendingly.

I explained that I recorded all of the splashdowns.

“I don’t see why you wanna do that,” she quipped, as if trying to motivate me to do something more “hip, perhaps with a ballpoint pen.

I asked if she could please excuse me because the coverage was about to start. She left the room shaking her head and mumbling something about “nonsense.” Apparently she thought my time would be better spent down in that bedroom, stoned and scripting whimsies about “love” on the mortar joints between the bricks.

Splashdown of the Skylab 3 crew went as advertised. CBS News had the best coverage with Morton Dean and Wally Schirra hosting the event. I managed to get nearly a half-hour of the splashdown activity on tape in spite of my aunt’s disdain for spaceflight.

A few weeks later my folks moved into our new house in Freeland and I moved out of my older cousin’s old bedroom. Before leaving I could not resist taking a ballpoint pen and scribing a whimsy of my own on the mortar joints between the bricks on the wall; something that would really make my relatives scratch their heads if and when they ever read it.

“Houston,” I scrolled in tiny letters, “the Falcon is on the Plain at Hadley.”

Growing up with spaceflight in the 1970s, it was important to get the last laugh.


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