Not long after the inauguration of Kennedy there was a feature article in the New York Herald Tribune on the astronauts. The question at hand was "Who would be the first to launch?" I ran down to the workbench where my father was working and asked the old man the same question. I was a John Glenn supporter myself.
"Probably it won't be John Glenn," he said. "Eisenhower was an Army man and he would have given the job to Glenn, since he was from the Army. Kennedy is a Navy man and I would guess the first astronaut will be a Navy man."
He was right. Alan Shepard, a Navy man, was the first man in space.
One cold morning I arrived at Fanny Hillers school and all the students were herded into the auditorium. A tv was set up with the countdown for Shepard's launch. Television. I didn't know they knew about television at Fanny Hillers.
The countdown was very dramatic. One hundred seven, one hundred six....Sort of like sex, the countdown is often more rewarding than the activities after liftoff.
I remember, vaguely, the Alan Shepard and John Glenn ticker tape parades in
New York that were on television. My mother proudly pointed out that as Vice President, Lyndon Johnson outranked Mayor Wagner and that this was reflected in the order of the cars on the parade route.
Wally Schirra's moment came later. A native of Oradell, he was born in Hackensack and he had a motorcade through Bergen County, ending at the county court house. After an interminable wait the cars finally came down Main Street. The same street I had marched in as a Cub Scout. Walter Schirra spoke. He had bright red hair. He was the only astronaut I ever saw in person.