Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Balloon Boy Via 1964

When the balloon boy story broke last week - about the 6-year-old who was supposed to be helplessly soaring through Colorado in a balloon - there were lots of reactions.

But Marin contractor Dan Nowell had the most unusual.

Been there. Done that.

In 1964, Nowell was a skinny 11-year-old who volunteered to help launch a hot air balloon in Mill Valley. But when the balloon abruptly lifted off, his fingers became entangled in the rope. As a horrified crowd of 200 spectators watched, the sixth-grader from Tamalpais Valley Elementary School was hoisted 3,000 feet into the air.

"People still refer to me as the Balloon Boy," Nowell said. "My kids got pretty tired of it over the years. I did get some interesting phone calls and e-mails last week. I said, 'Somebody is trying to steal my thunder.' "

Unlike the kid from Colorado, whose parents face fines and charges for manufacturing the story, Nowell's experience was real and captured the nation's attention before news helicopters, Twitter, and cable news networks came to be.

"The most extraordinary thing was the power of the press," Nowell said. "I got letters from all over the world addressed to 'Balloon Boy.' "

Read the rest of the story here.

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