July 20 … What a Date!

July 20 - FB

Frequent readers of this blog know I have a quirky talent for remembering obscure dates. Today happens to be the 41st anniversary of one of them. It’s easy for me to remember, because two important things also happened on this date.

Grand FallsWe start with the personal. On this afternoon in 1973, my family moved into their long-time residence at Grand Falls Plaza on Shoal Creek, just outside Joplin, Missouri. I don’t have a photo of the house, but the development took its name from Grand Falls, the lovely natural waterfall a half mile to the west. I was 12 years-old, and it was a summer filled with big change. I had just finished Sixth Grade, and within weeks I would enter into the mysterious world South JHSawaiting at South Junior High School. (I remember thinking, “Lockers! Home rooms! Changing class periods! How does it all work?” Somehow, I got through it.) It was a lovely two story house, part brick and part white wood with green shutters; one of my teachers once said it had a “My Three Sons” look, and he was right. I loved that house, and my parents lived there for the next 31 years. I drove by it the last time I visited Joplin in 2011; the old place has fallen on hard times. But it lives on in my memory the way it looked that hot Friday afternoon in 1973 when the moving van pulled up in front of it.

Apollo-11-9As I said earlier, it was easy for me to remember our July 20 move-in because exactly four years before that, another moving adventure (of a sort) took place: Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Unless they were in a coma, everyone my age remembers watching TV that Sunday night in 1969 when the spacecraft touched down on the lunar surface; most of us can still hear Walter Cronkite’s voice describing it, too, the way he described everything else that really mattered back then: JFK, Vietnam, the moon landings, Watergate.

July 20’s place in history stretches even beyond that to July 20, 1944. As Hitler was leaning over a table Hitler-bombstudying a military map inside his heavily guarded command compound in Poland, a bomb exploded. Four people died; unfortunately, he didn’t. Hitler showed the blast site later to a visiting Mussolini, who was appropriately appalled, the way sycophantic lackeys always are. In fact, the entire episode is now known to history as the July 20th Plot. Younger folks will remember it from the recent hit movie “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise.

So there you have it: a bad guy was bombed, the Eagle landed on the Moon, and the Powell family established a new domicile – all on July 20.

Happy anniversary!

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