A Piece of History in New Bremen

Staff Writer

The village of New Bremen is getting in on the action with upcoming celebration of the moon landing by having their own exhibit of artifacts belonging to Neil Armstrong at the Bicycle Museum of America.
Starting in the foyer of the museum, there are several bikes on display that connect to the theme of the lunar landing: the Bowden Spacelander, the Sears Spaceliner and the Surly Moonlander. While none have anything to do with space travel itself, their inspiration came from space exploration.
Museum Coordinator Micayla Gray and Julie Ahlers, assistant to Jim Dicke II — who suggested the guest speaker — spoke to Rotarians of the New Bremen New Knoxville Club Tuesday morning about the few artifacts they have on site, given to them by the Armstrong family.
One item is the issue of Newsweek of which Neil Armstrong is on the cover of. Gray told those in attendance that Newsweek sent Armstrong a sample of the issue he was featured on to his Texas home. One aspect she did note was that while the museum does have the actual Newsweek issue, what is on display is a rendition because they want to keep the issue in good condition and not have light damage its quality.
Another item they have on display is an insurance cover.
“The astronauts, they had these — what they called insurance covers,” Gray said. “And what is was was like insurance for the family that if they wouldn’t make it back from their mission, then the family could go and sell these and have enough money to provide for themselves.”
The one they have on display — also a paper reproduction — was the cover that was given to Armstrong’s wife, Janet. It is signed by all three men on Apollo 11 — Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin.
They have another insurance cover on display but not from an astronaut with the Apollo 11 mission. The second one belonged to Richard F. Gordon Jr, an astronaut with Gemini 11 and Apollo 12 missions.
The third item the museum has on display in regards to the Armstrong, is from one of his trips to Wapakoneta to be with his family around the time of the space landing. It’s a small drawing on a piece of paper where Armstrong was attempting to explain to father how the landing would go.
“It’s a nice little process work showing us, I think, a lot about the families and the parents of these astronauts and just the lack of understanding,” Gray said. “Neil actually had his junior pilots license when he was 16, before he had his drivers license. So I just imagine these parents like, ‘what are you doing?’ and you know the fact that we can just see here that there were certain parts of it that they didn’t understand, they were too scientific, they were too technological, they were just too out there.”
Armstrong was also presented the key to the city of Wapakoneta after the moon landing and that key was made into a pin, which is also a part of their display.
They also have the cap that Armstrong wore while he was going through the Boy Scouts as a child. Gray mentioned that Armstrong was a big supporter of the scouts, even into his adulthood.
That aspect of him shows true as the cap is in pristine condition, according to Gray.
She also noted that this aspect of their collection humanizes him.
“He was a kid going around doing regular kid stuff,” she said.
The final item they have on display is the suit Armstrong wore during the Gemini missions. The blue suit, which Ahlers noted as probably one of the more interesting pieces on display, were paired with a pair of Chuck Taylors, as those were the shoes Armstrong was often photographed wearing during that time. The shoes on display, however, did not belong to him.
Ahlers also noted the size of the suit, adding that Armstrong was not a large man as these spacecrafts they were working in were extremely small.
The museum also has some other artifacts from Armstrong’s life that are not directly related to the Apollo 11 mission for individuals to check out.
Some of those items will only be on display in New Bremen until August of this year. At that time, they will be temporarily moved to the University of Dayton where they will be on display with their exhibit for one year.
Armstrong isn’t the only celebrity the bicycle museum has artifacts from. Gray mentioned that over the last three years, the museum has come to own about four bikes that were owned by famed comedian and actor Robin Williams. She said he was an avid cyclist himself who had two bike shops in the Bay Area of California that he frequented.
They own a mountain bike from the actor that Gray said is almost completely destroyed, a hand painted graffiti bike that was hand built and one of the nicest bikes in their collection in terms of quality, a ZIP bike that was built by the Indy 500 Team that is exclusively meant for competitive cycling and a silver, completely-custom bike.
Gray mentioned that the museum has around 900 bikes in their collection that they pull out of storage to be viewed by the public.
Located at 7 W. Monroe St. in New Bremen, the bike museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.