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Deke Slayton
Space Week 93
Outpost Tavern
Don Williams
Apollo 8 25th

Spaceweek National Banquet

 Apollo 8 Silver Anniversary
Photo Credits: Mine
Program Cover from the Apollo 8 Silver Anniversary Gala
Apollo 8 Silver Anniversary Program
Apollo 8 Silver Anniversary Program Cover
 Apollo 8 Silver Anniversary Program
25th anniversary gala for Apollo 8 was held at Space Center Houston on December 18, 1993.  My wife Mary and I attended this Apollo 8 Silver Anniversary Gala.  Also in attendance were friends, Mark Shelton, and Andy Sheppard.  This is my recollection from that event.

I was really looking forward to this event because the entire Apollo 8 crew was supposed to be in attendance.  That would include the elusive Bill Anders.  Of all of the Apollo era astronauts, I think Bill Anders was one of the toughest to get to meet and receive and autograph from.

There just were not many opportunities to see him. It was rare for Anders to attend a public event.  I hoped my luck would change at the 25th anniversary gala.

The recommended attire for this event was Christmas wear.  I wore a blue sport coat and blue slacks. Mary was decked out in her Christmas holiday best.  She had on a nice black skirt accented with Christmas holly, a sharp white shirt also accented with holly and a black Christmas sweater.

We got to the gala and sure enough the Apollo 8 astronauts were all there.  That included Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders.  Before we got close to any of them, it became apparent that things were not going to go well.

NASA had assigned public relations escorts for the crewmen. These PR women would not allow anyone to ask any of the Apollo 8 crew for an autograph.  I think Mark may have gotten an autograph from Lovell and Borman, but that was before the escort security blanket was fully deployed.

I was really disappointed.  I should have introduced myself to Anders, just to be able to shake his hand.  I really didn't know what to say to him. With my deflated mood didn't make it easy for me to think. 

The program was opened by former flight director Gerry Griffin.  Following Griffin's remarks came Luci Baines Johnson.  She was a nice person but her segment seemed to drag on a little too long.  Following Johnson were remarks by Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman.  Gerry Griffin gave the program closing.

There were other astronauts there and those astronauts were easy to approach.  They did not have the PR escorts and they were fairly relaxed.

Some of the astronauts that we talked with and got autographs from included: Alan Bean, Bonnie Dunbar, Ron Sega, Brewster Shaw, Janice Voss-Ford and Don Williams.  Apparently Janice Voss had gotten married since the last time that we saw her because her signature that night had a hyphenated last name.

Mary and I had a really nice talk with Alan Bean.  We were able to talk to Bean about his art.  That was conversation was really nice.  It was worth the trip just for that.

I also spoke with Don Williams, the astronaut who was my golf partner from October at the Space Week Golf Tournament.  I had a group photo of our golf group that I needed to give to Don.  He left the tournament before the photos were handed out.  I gave Don his photo and asked him if he would mind autographing my group photo.

Don said, “Well, Ill autograph yours, if you autograph mine.”  Now I felt really embarrassed.  Don had turned the tables on me.  No one had ever asked for my autograph before.  I took his photo and signed it underneath my image.  My autograph was pretty poor.  I wasn't used to signing something while standing up.  Don signed my photo and did a much better job with the autograph.

I also saw Max Faget at the Gala.  Faget was the primary force behind the shape of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space capsules as well as of the space shuttle.  I had a book of his that he had written and I asked him to sign it.  He graciously autographed my book.

June Lockhart of “Lost in Space” fame was at the gala. Mary got Lockhart to autograph her Apollo 8 Silver Anniversary program.  Mary said that Lockhart was a wonderful person to talk with.

Mark and I had a nice conversation with Jeffrey Lovell.  He is one of Jim Lovell's sons.  He was interesting to talk with and seemed really down to Earth.  He did not seem to be affected by the celebrity status of his father.

There were a few other astronauts there that I did not get a chance to speak to.  Those astronauts included: Dan Brandenstein, Gene Cernan, Ken Reightler, Harrison Schmitt, and John Young. 

Young also was not signing anything, but I heard him tell one person that if they mailed the item to him at NASA he would sign it.  That wasn't quite true.  Later, I mailed an Apollo 16 crew photo to Young and mentioned the Apollo 8 Gala.  He returned my crew photo unsigned, but he did send me an autographed current astronaut portrait.

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UPDATED : February 26, 2007
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