On Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, I flew into Dayton, rented a car and headed up I-75 to Wapakoneta. I had an appointment that afternoon with the economic development director for Wapakoneta in order for him to show me a piece of property my client was interested in procuring.

I met this individual in his office at the appointed time. After pleasantries, I said, “I haven’t been to Wapakoneta since the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend 1969.”

He looked at me, thought for a minute, and said, “You were here that day? I was, too.”

I joked that he was probably a bit younger, perhaps in junior high school, while I was a college student.

So why did we both immediately know what we were doing on that particular Saturday and why were we in Wapakoneta?

Well, he lived there, while I and a couple of friends had made a specific trip to be there.

We were all there for the homecoming celebration for Neil Armstrong, Wapakoneta’s most famous son.

That was the first big holiday weekend after his moonwalk. Wapakoneta pulled out all the stops for Armstrong’s homecoming. He was a graduate of Purdue University, and their marching band was there that day, along with the famous “golden girl” majorette.

I don’t know how many other bands were there, but the parade was all over the city, culminating at the high school football stadium where many speeches were given. I remember it was very hot that day and a number of band members passed out.

A year or so later, Neil Armstrong accepted a position as a professor in the Engineering College at the University of Cincinnati, where I was attending.

Professor Armstrong had a simple office, just like all the others, and often you would see him standing in line at a copy machine, just like anyone else. He was a very modest man.

Back to present times, my client has now bought the land and is going to build a paper mill in the industrial park on the south side of Wapakoneta. This mill will make the paper that you see every day in the ubiquitous corrugated box, used to deliver every sort of good in the modern retail world. The mill will make the paper from recycled boxes (known as OCC, Old Corrugated Containers) – a simple and “green” process.

The development of this project also means for the next couple of years, I’ll be making a monthly trek to Wapakoneta to monitor and report on the construction and startup of this facility, a role I provide for the investors in such projects.

A couple of my colleagues from Highland County will have the opportunity to accompany me and witness the development of this site from a soybean field to an operating paper mill. It will be a great experience for all of us.

As one gets older, this sort of turn of events is what I find fascinating in life. As a 19-year-old in 1969, I could never have imagined the twists and turns, career moves, chance meetings and so forth that must happen in order to be able to reflect on such an interesting sequence now.

It is one of the joys of living a long time.

This will be my 17th paper mill construction project in the last 26 years. I never get tired of them. It will be especially sweet to go back to a place that was a part of my experiences at the end of my teenage years.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.