Last week I wrote about a 1962 Noblesville Daily Ledger article that described local reactions to John Glenn’s historic Project Mercury mission.
That inspired me to search the old newspapers to see what effect the other five Project Mercury space flights might have had on county residents.
All I could find was one brief comment about Noblesville High School students exhibiting nervous excitement over Scott Carpenter’s flight. (Carpenter, the fourth American in space, went up in May, a few months after Glenn.)
The Ledger did report on a few other local angles, though.
One of those involved a new four cent stamp the United States Post Office Department (today’s U.S. Postal Service) created to celebrate John Glenn’s orbits around the earth.
The “Glenn stamp,” as it became known, was the first previously unannounced commemorative stamp to be issued simultaneously with the event it saluted.
Because of fears the mission might fail, the stamp’s development was undertaken with all the stealth of a CIA operation. Sworn to secrecy, the designer worked at home, while the engravers and printers did their thing at night and on weekends.
The stamps themselves were sent out in sealed packets with registry locks and were labeled “top secret.” Postmasters were instructed not to open the packets until Washington gave the okay (i.e. after Glenn’s safe return.)
When news got out about the stamp, Noblesville’s post office was flooded with phone calls. Postmaster James Gaddis had to tell people he’d only been sent 5,000 stamps and he expected those to sell out within a couple of days.
(They probably would have disappeared sooner, but the post office was closed the following day in honor of Washington’s birthday.)
The Ledger also uncovered some Hamilton County connections to the aircraft carriers assigned to pick up astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper when they returned to Earth.
In July, 1961, midshipman third class Gerald K. Hamilton, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Hamilton of Noblesville, and seaman James R. Lacey, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Elbert Lacey of Cicero, were serving on the USS Randolph, Grissom’s designated recovery ship.
Ensign David B. Evans was involved in two recovery efforts. He was on board the USS Kearsarge when Wally Schirra splashed down in October, 1962, and the following May he was in charge of the operations of the helicopters sent out from the Kearsarge to retrieve Gordon Cooper and his capsule.
Evans’ father, Clarence Evans, was an administrative assistant to the vice president of Firestone Industrial Products and the family lived near Carmel.
When Alan Shepard became the first American in space, Sixth District Congressman Richard L. Roudebush was at Cape Canaveral to witness the launch. The Noblesville native attended the event in an official capacity as a member of the House Space Committee.
Roudebush’s account of his experience was published in the May 8, 1961 Ledger. In the article, he remarked that he’d had many conversations with Shepard and his backups, Grissom and Glenn, in the days prior to Shepard’s launch and he’d been impressed by the teamwork exhibited by the three men.
The congressman also shared an anecdote about Shepard, whom he described as a “deadly serious young man, totally dedicated to the project,” but someone who wasn’t above occasionally attempting to lighten the mood.
According to Roudebush, during one of Shepard’s practice countdowns the astronaut glanced up at the rocket and Mercury capsule looming in front of him and promptly crumpled to the floor in an apparent faint.
“Everyone started pushing panic buttons all over the place before Shepard bounced to his feet laughing.”
I bet there were some people at NASA that didn’t need coffee to keep themselves going that day.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com