| On July 23, 1990, the 15th
anniversary of the
Apollo Soyuz flight was celebrated in Oklahoma
City. This was held
at the Oklahoma Air
& Space Museum
at the Kirkpatrick Center. I attended this event along with my
girlfriend's 8 year old son Toby and my friend Mark Shelton.
For the third weekend in a row, Mark and I were on the
road. It was a space enthusiast grand
slam. First we were in Houston
at a Baptist church were we met three astronauts. The
next weekend we were back in Houston
at the Space Week National banquet where we met four more astronauts. We hoped to add meetings of two more
astronauts and two cosmonauts in Oklahoma City.
Our drive to Oklahoma City
took about three hours. I drove my car
which was a red Camaro IROC-Z. Toby was
beginning to become a real space trooper. Two
weeks before he was down with us in Houston
when we met three moonwalkers. This
would be the first formal banquet that Toby attended.
We bought him a sports jacket and tie just
for this event. It was a time in life when I was very close to Toby. If I went somewhere he was usually at my
We arrived at the Kirkpatrick
schedule and parked the
car. We were dressed casually for the
drive up. That meant that we had to get
dressed before the banquet. We found a
rest room in the building where we could dress for the banquet. I helped Toby get on his tie and sport
coat. He was a sharp looking young man. We returned to the car and deposited our
The reception started at 6:30. At
the reception we learned that Deke Slayton
would not be in attendance. Astronaut
Tom Stafford was present, as were Cosmonauts Alexi Leonov and Valeri
Kubasov. While it was disappointing to
miss out on Slayton, it was more than compensated for by the presence
of the cosmonauts.
We introduced ourselves to the Stafford,
Leonov, and Kubasov. Leonov was very
jovial. After he signed an autograph for
Toby, I whispered in Toby's ear that he should thank Leonov. Toby told Leonov thank you for the
autograph. Leonov got a big smile on his
face and snapped to attention. He then
saluted Toby. That was awesome. Toby was the recipient of a salute from a
Soviet General. Leonov was the first man
to ever walk in space. I felt really
proud of Toby and it is still one of my favorite memories.
The setting for the banquet was pretty neat.
The tables were set up in the midst of the
displays of space hardware. We had a
full size command service module mockup hanging overhead.
All of the tables had baskets that contained
a bouquet of flowers. Our table was very
close to the head tables where the dignitaries were seated.
Stafford and Leonov both spoke during
the banquet. Leonov's English was pretty
good. He told us that he always called
the program Soyuz-Apollo while in the United
States we always called it
Apollo-Soyuz. One of the things that
Leonov presented to
the Museum was an old photo that was autographed by the first eleven
cosmonauts. He told us how rare such a
After the speeches were done, Leonov raised his glass in a
toast. Mark had made sure that before
the dinner started we had glass with vodka in it. You
know when the Russians are involved, that
there is going to be a toast involved. It's
more appropriate if you have vodka at hand.
I met someone at dinner who knew, Luba Diangar, the person
that published the US version of Valentin Lebedev's Diary of a
Cosmonaut. I told him that I really would love to have that book
autographed by Lebedev for my space library. He gave me the
contact information of Ms. Diangar. Later I wrote her and she was
able to inform me of a personal appearance in the US by Cosmonaut
We had a wonderful time at the dinner. After
the dinner, Mark asked some of the
banquet organizers if it would be Okay to take any of the table
home that contained the flowers. They
told him that it was fine. So Mark took
a centerpiece home for his wife. Toby
and I also took one home for Mary.
We got out to the car. Toby
swapped clothes and got into his pajamas. It
was late at night and he would be asleep
by the time we got home. As we were
getting Toby situated in the back seat with a pillow and blanket, Tom
Stafford’s wife came by. She made a
remark about Toby getting comfortable for the drive.
I told her that we had at least a three hour
drive ahead of us before we got home. She
told me how nice it was for us to bring Toby to
the banquet. I thanked Mrs. Stafford for
coming to Oklahoma City
for the anniversary. She told me it was no
problem since they lived in Oklahoma City.
We got on the road for the long trip ahead of us. After about three hours we were nearly at the
place where Mark had left his car. It
must have been around twelve thirty or one o'clock in the morning. We were still on the freeway and a car pulled
up along side of us. Mark smiled at the
woman passenger in the car and he said she raised her shirt. Mark always had a way with women. I missed
out on the show as I was concentrating on the road.
Fortunately Toby was asleep so I didn't have
to do any explaining.
Mary loved the flowers that we had brought back. She saved the wicker basket that they came
in. To this day, we still bring that
simple basket out and use it for a bread basket whenever we have a
dinner in our home.