Grissom column evoked childhood memories

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By The Staff


I just wanted to thank Dave Taylor for his story about our Gus Grissom and his role in the space program. Before coming to Carrollton on a part-time basis, I lived all my life in Mitchell and was a young boy during the 60’s. In 1956, when I was in the first grade, Gus visited our class while he was stationed at what is now Grissom A.F.B. His oldest son, Scott, was in our class. I can still remember that fighter pilot helmet with Grissom on the front.

I can also remember many times Gus would fly low over Mitchell and the people would always know Gus was saying hello.

Gus would visit his parents often and go squirrel hunting with my dad and some of the other fellows in town. That changed in 1959 when he was named one of the original seven.

All in town were watching in 1961 as our Gus became the second man in space. We also watched in horror as he swam for his life and we watched the Liberty Bell 7 sink to the bottom of the ocean. I would never see it again or so I thought.

Gus came home after both the Mercury and Gemini flights. We had huge celebrations with parades and speeches. After the 1961 flight, he drove his new ’61 ‘Vette and I have a picture of he and my dad standing next to it. What a great time to grow up.

On Jan 27, 1967, my dad and Gus’s brother Norman, who owned the local newspaper, attended my high school basketball game in Salem, Ind. together. During the game, Norman was rushed out of the gym and an eerie hush fell over the crowd. Our Gus, our hero was dead. It was a long night with reporters calling and knocking on our door. Mitchell’s wonderful 60’s were over.

I became a teacher in the Mitchell schools for 33 years. I don’t think Mitchell was ever the same. Things would happen that would complete my wonderful memories of Gus.

After the Liberty Bell 7 was brought up from the ocean floor, I took my fifth grade class to Indianapolis to see it. It was there for just a short time. I stood there thinking I was only 11 and now I’m nearing retirement. What a thrill.

I had visited Ed White’s grave while my son attended West Point but not Gus’s and Chaffer’s at Arlington. Two years ago, I made the lonely walk up the hill to the graves.

Thanks Gus for a wonderful and exciting boyhood. You gave us small town boys something to reach for in our own lives.

Dennis Watterson