NEW CONCORD, OH (WCMH) — To hear John Glenn describe his childhood, one would think they were watching scenes from “The Music Man,” an episode of “Leave It To Beaver” or any 1950s educational film on the positive aspects of American Youth. But this was the 1920s and 1930s in New Concord, Ohio. His childhood was as clean-cut and pure as any of the day.
He described his childhood as patriotic and wholesome. By age 9, he was playing trumpet in the town band. His father, John Herschel Glenn, was a soldier of World War I. He came home partially deaf from the cannon blasts in France, but was a bugler who taught his son the military songs of the day.
The Glenns were members of the Presbyterian Church, and his Scottish roots would come to worldwide fame after his February 1962 space flight when a second cousin, Anne Glenn of Sheffield, England, gained fame throughout the British Isles just by being related to him. That’s how much of a worldwide celebrity Glenn was after his space flight.
John Glenn was actually born in Cambridge, Ohio but later moved to New Concord, which is considered his home town. His home overlooks U.S. Route 40, which was known as the National Road or Highway. It traversed from Baltimore to St. Louis. Glenn was an only child (his mother lost two babies to miscarriages) until his parents adopted a sister named Jean.
At an early age, he was interested in flying. His first flight was when he was 8 years old. Someone in town had an open cockpit biplane and offered to give him and his father a ride. That day, with the leather helmet and goggles, he was hooked. He would come to Columbus with his father as a child, and always begged to go to the fledgling airport just to watch the planes.
He would also travel to Cleveland, where there were airplane races. The interest grew through high school and at Muskingum College. While at Muskingum, he learned of a Civilian Pilot Training Program. The U.S. Department of Commerce offered to pay for the training in the interest of gaining more pilots. This was in the autumn of 1941. He enrolled in the program not knowing what fate was unfolding in just a few months.
He had gone to college to study chemistry, but then Pearl Harbor was attacked. He left Muskingum to join the Army Air Corps, already having a pilot’s license, but the Army never called him up. So, he joined the U.S. Navy, and by 1943 was assigned to the Marines. He would fly fighter planes throughout World War II and the Korean War, and was an American hero by the time he returned from Korea. His passage into the space program seemed almost like a natural next step.
Along the way, he married his high school sweetheart in 1943 who was also a playmate as a child: Anna Margaret Castor, known as Annie. He often speaks of how they always knew each other, and had even been placed in the same crib as babies, as their parents were friends. At that time in adolescence when people start to pair off, they just naturally paired off. He and Annie had never been out on a date with anyone else.
They had two children, a son and daughter, and Annie became an accomplished organist. In fact, she had been offered a scholarship to The Julliard School, but attended Muskingum College instead. They remained married until the end.
Once when asked about his faithfulness to Annie, Glenn responded, “Why go shopping for Oleo when you have creamery butter at home?”