| The Spaceweek 1990 National Banquet was
held on July 16th, 1990. I attended this with my friend and
space enthusiast, Mark Shelton.
In 1990, I was still a newbie when it came to meeting
astronauts. I looked up at them as
heroes. People who achieved fame well
beyond what mere mortals could do. That
mind set and an incredible amount of shyness on my part made meeting
a big stretch for me.
Mark and I got to the hotel and went to the reception before
the banquet. We floated among the people
looking to see if we recognized any astronauts.
I was excited. I knew
there were astronauts in this crowd,
but I didn’t know how to spot them. Mark
had a lot more experience at meeting astronauts.
I saw one older gentleman who was wearing a tux with a red
sash across his chest. This man stood
out in the crowd. I asked Mark who that
person was. Mark looked and said,
“That’s Wally Schirra.” My heart
jumped. Of all the astronauts that I
wanted to meet, Wally Schirra was probably my all time favorite. I asked Mark if he was sure.
Mark told me that without a doubt that was
I worked up the courage to go over to the gentleman and
introduce myself. I’m sure my voice was
very meek during the introduction. I
asked the many if he was “WALLY Schirra”. I
emphasized the “WALLY” because I’m sure my voice
must have trailed off
during the “Schirra.” The man smiled and
said he was Wally. Wow it was him, or so
I then asked the man, “Mr. Schirra, would you mind signing
my copy of Home Planet?” The man
stopped, “What did you call me?” I replied
“Mr. Schirra?” The man asserted, “I am
not Wally Schirra.” I wilted like flower
suffering under the afternoon Texas
I know that he told me that he wasn’t Schirra, but I didn’t
know whether or not I should believe him. The
real Wally Schirra is a big practical joker. Maybe
this was one of his jokes. I didn’t wait
around to find out. I’m sure my face was
red as a beet at this
point. I apologized, thanked the man for
his time and beat a hasty retreat. I had
gone down in flames badly. There are
probably still scorch marks on the carpet where I crashed.
I rejoined Mark and told him what had just transpired. Mark was surprised and said he would go over
and talk to the gentleman. I was more
than gun shy at this point. I needed a
Scotch from the open bar. I didn’t
smoke, but would have considered taking it up if offered.
Mark came back with a big grin on his face.
He told me that man was really not Wally
Schirra. His name actually was “Wally
Trebes”. He was a former NASA employee
and just by sheer coincidence had the first name of Wally.
I swear he did bear a resemblance to the
real Wally Schirra.
Mark thought all of this was great fun.
I never let will let Mark live that one
down. I maintained that he knew all
along that it wasn’t Wally Schirra. This
became known as “The Wally Trebes Incident.” It
took a long time before I ever trusted Mark’s
There were four real astronauts at the banquet that I
recognized. These I did not have to rely
on Mark’s judgment for. The four
astronauts were Vance Brand, Dan Brandenstein, Paul Weitz, and Harrison
Schmitt. Schmitt gave the keynote speech
at the banquet, so recognizing him was a given.
After the banquet, I met the four astronauts and got their
signatures. I introduced myself to
Vance Brand. He turned around and
introduced me to his gorgeous wife. I
was shocked that he took the time to introduce me to someone. He treated me like a real person.
I couldn’t believe it. That
Schmitt was also easy to approach and was very accommodating. I showed Schmitt a photo that I had taken on
the far side of the Island
in 1988. In that photo was a small
rocket shaped water tower on the top of a building.
On the side of the water tower were painted
the words, “Apollo 17, voyages de la Luna.”
It intrigued me, what the connection was between Cozumel
and Apollo 17. Since Schmitt was an
Apollo 17 crew member, I felt certain, that I would get an answer. Schmitt looked at the photo and said that he
had no idea why that was there. He told
me that I should ask Gene Cernan. I didn’t
get my question answered, but it was neat to ask.
Dr. Schmitt was the fifth moonwalker for me
So my first Spaceweek Banquet turned out pretty well. I recovered from the “Wally Trebes” incident
and actually made contact with real astronauts. In
reciprocity, it was neat that they treated me
like a real person.