Kane County History: Batavia's Connection To 1969 Moon Landing

Kane County History: Batavia’s Connection To 1969 Moon Landing

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was contributed by Jeffery D. Schielke, mayor of the city of Batavia. This story originally appeared in The Batavia Historian newsletter of the Batavia Historical Society and is reprinted with permission.

The landing by the United States on the surface of the moon in the summer of 1969 brought something of a rendezvous of American and local history to Batavia.

Largely regarded as one of the most significant moments of U.S. history in the last century, the event came with telephone calls to the Batavia city government and to our local news media from NBC News in Chicago, seeking confirmation that the mother of astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. had spent part of her childhood growing up in Batavia.

A quick phone call to the Gustafson Garden Green House on West Main Street was met with an in-depth explanation from Dr. Lucile Gustafson confirming that the question from NBC News had an affirmative answer.

According to Gustafson, Buzz Aldrin’s grandfather was the minister of Batavia’s United Methodist Church between 1915 and 1918, and that his name, with a strong sense of ironic coincidence, was none other than the Rev. Faye Arnold Moon.

Moon and his family, including daughter Marion, lived in the Methodist parsonage in what is now the 300 block of Main Street. Gustafson related that she and Marion Moon were very close friends and shared a variety of viewpoints.

Interestingly, Gustafson described Moon and herself as “pioneering women who held a strong independent spirit for the rights of womanhood in the early decades of the last century.”

Gustafson had a favorite story that she and Moon had presided over a debate in the eighth-grade classroom of what was then the Central School on Batavia’s west side, on the topic of granting women the right to vote. When the debate was over, all members of the class voted to endorse women’s voting rights.

After the moon landing occurred, several written articles appeared in national publications where Buzz Aldrin’s mother was said to have displayed a strong spirit of independence in her parenting skills.

Moon and his family left Batavia in 1918 after the Methodist minister made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War I. The family in total never appears to have returned to Batavia with the exception of Moon’s wife, who reportedly stopped back on a couple of occasions for visits with the Stafney family, who were active members of the local church at the time.

In the 1970 book “First on the Moon,” by the three Apollo 11 astronauts, mention is made on page 77 of that book that the “flex lines,” which were utilized to transmit power sources around the orbiting space ship, were designed and manufactured in Batavia.

Research into this fact came with the finding that such history was true and the location of the research and design of the flex lines was largely conducted at the DK Aerospace Division of the Dunbar Kapple Company, which was located at 100 N. Island Ave., in what is today our Batavia Government Center building.

Longtime Batavian Les Hodge was plant manager for Dunbar Kapple for many years and shared the memory that much of the research work at the time took place in the space that is today’s Batavia City Council chambers.

Hodge also shared a sidebar story about the research and related that legendary rocket scientist Wernher von Braun came to Batavia on at least two occasions to confer on the design of the flex lines.

Hodge said that on one visit, von Braun spent nearly 20 hours straight working at DK Aerospace. The work came to a brief halt after NASA officials in Florida had alerted von Braun to a Newsweek story about the space program. Hodge and the famous aerospace engineer took a walk to Bert Johnson’s drug store on Batavia Avenue to obtain a copy of the magazine.

About the Batavia Depot Museum

The Batavia Depot Museum opened in 1975 as a partnership between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind built in 1854, and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside, the city’s past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place. Open seasonally, from March through mid December, the museum’s hours are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Labor Day.

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