LEWISTON — After staying up late on July 20, 1969, to see two American astronauts walk on the surface of the moon “most Lewiston-Auburn area people were bleary-eyed” from watching television into the night, the Lewiston Evening Journal reported.

“But tired as they were,” it said, “most found the moonwalk fascinating and they were proud, happy and hopeful.”

“It seemed unreal,” Donald Hamel, a student at Edward Little High School, told the Journal 50 years ago. “I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.”

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon at 4:17 p.m. on July 20. At 10:56 p.m. that evening, Armstrong climbed out onto the moon surface, declaring, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joined him 20 minutes later and the pair explored the area surrounding the landing site and collected rocks until they blasted off early the next afternoon.

The Lewiston Daily Sun proclaimed the moon landing “mankind’s most glorious moment.”

The Journal’s editorial declared the event “simply unbelievable.”

“Hundreds of thousands of words have been written and spoken by way of carrying out the obligation of news media throughout the world yet none of the elegant phrases and descriptions can adequately express the magnitude of man’s greatest adventure,” the paper said.

Oscar Douglass of Auburn said he found it amazing to sit in his living room and watch someone walking on the moon and talking directly with President Richard Nixon despite the vast distance between the men.

“It makes you think back to the years of the old comic books featuring Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and their episodes on the moon,” Douglass told the Journal in the one local reaction news story to appear in either paper.

Not everyone was impressed.

Wilfred Lenais was interviewed sitting on a bench in Kennedy Park the next day.

“There’s nothing there — no grass, no water, just rocks,” he said as he flicked a peanut to a pigeon. “I prefer it right here.”

The Journal’s story noted that it “was hard for many to fully realize what the television screen image was showing” that memorable night as Armstrong and Aldrin left the lunar lander on a boulder-strewn plain of the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

“It took a lot of imagination to fully appreciate the show,” it said.

Even so, “most were fascinated by the idea of walking on the moon, whether they approved or not, whether it affected them or not,” the story said.

Reporter Wayne Reilly headed over to Kennedy Park to see what people had to say.

He found Homer Davis there reading a newspaper.

“What’s Apollo 11 mean to me?” Davis asked. “I’m a World War I veteran and I know these fellows are brave. I only hope some of the young people around here can learn something from their example.”

Marco Giancotti told the paper he thought it was “the most beautiful day I’ve ever seen” to have people walking on the moon.

“It will make a better world for all of us,” he said.

Donald Pelletier said the Apollo mission wouldn’t change his life because “I’m too old for that.”

But he reckoned it was a good thing to have sent men to the moon

Claudette Boisvert wasn’t so sure.

“It’s a new world, but I’m only half and half on the idea,” she said. “It’s an accomplishment for them, but there’s so many things we need money for in this country.”

A disabled veteran named Robert Hagen had a harsher take on the occasion.

“Man was put on this Earth and he should stay here. If he can’t take care of himself here, how can he expect to do it on the moon?” Hagen said

Janet Couture, described as “a salesgirl at Kresge’s,” said she had “mixed feelings” about the historic event “because I think the money should be spent on the poverty-stricken” even though it is ‘fascinating to see.”

“Still, I think it’s a waste of money. And I don’t think it will stop,” Couture said, because the Americans and Russians would continue to compete in space.

“The Russians would have gone if we hadn’t,” said Anita Moore, who worked at First Manufacturer’s National Bank.

Despite his enthusiasm for NASA’s journey to the moon, Richard Cohen wasn’t so keen on all the television attention it garnered. He said he was disappointed that it cut into baseball coverage.

He said he would have liked to see some ballplayers “shoot something into orbit, too.”

Walter Sargent told Journal reporter Glenn Burgess that the moon project “is an absolute necessity for ultimate survival of the human race.”

“It was wonderful, just wonderful,” said Connie Cote, a secretary in the Androscoggin County Clerk of Courts office.

“We may be sure that history books of the future will mark the Apollo 11 manned landing on the moon as a pivotal point in determining man’s ability to journey into the distance reaches of space,” the Journal editorialized as it hailed the astronauts’ safe return a few days after the lunar landing.