I don't recall ever staying home to watch a launch. But I seem to remember that on at least some occasions a student would bring a portable television to school and the whole class would watch. (The teachers at my Catholic school were evidently space program fans too.)
I remember that we got together with our neighbors to watch the moon landing. (I was eleven.) The husband of one neighbor had gone off to run some errand and his wife was worried he wouldn't be back in time. I still remember her saying, "If that Claude isn't back here in time I'm going to DEE-vorce him!" It was pretty amusing.
I was in Maryland at the time of the first shuttle launch attending training classes for IBM. There were new IBM employees from various places around the country, some of whom worked on the Shuttle program. (I didn't.) They were very concerned about the problems with the IBM computers communicating with each other.
What a small world, SMHW! I started a new job, and about a month into it discovered my co-worker's dad also worked at the same plant when we were kids. His dad was a nuclear physicist before he retired. They didn't know each other, but our lives crossed so many times that we always say that if you look really hard, you can see us in the backgrounds of each others photos.
Like you, we are always shocked that folks are so ignorant of rocketry and the space program. My uncle worked for Lockheed's Rocket Division, too, so we thought the world knew.
Did your Mom let you stay home from school to watch the launches? My Mom always let us stay home to watch what fed us, as she put it. The moon landing and walk happened on my 13th birthday, and I am always so glad for that. I watched the first Shuttle launch while I was stationed in Germany. The only other claim to fame is that one of my school mates is a retired shuttle commander (Robert Gibson).
You sound alot like me: Areospace baby, 3 kids, and similar interests. When did your dad work for Rocketdyne? My dad was at Autonetics (Downey/Anaheim) from 1958, until he retired in 1989. He was a metallurgical engineer.