June 2002
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Meet a Member

by Cliff Jones 

While on a trip to the library I glanced out a side window and spotted something I hadn’t remembered seeing before. It looked like some sort of antenna/gun/cage on a post in the backyard of someone’s home. I was 12. The year was 1955. I asked my dad, who was driving, what it was. He said he didn’t know but would we would stop and ask on the way back home.

We did stop on the return trip, knocked on the stranger’s door. The equipment in the back yard was a 12 inch cassagrain on an equatorial mount. The owner was a member of the Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society, an electrician, and a former high schoolclassmate of my mother’s. From then on I spend every clear Friday night looking through the 12 inch cass, drinking hot chocolate, eating peanut butter & crackers and discussing Astronomy. I joined the club as a Junior member the following year. The first telescope I built was a 2½ inch refractor made out of a carpet tube with an eyepiece made from a thread spool carved out for holding a couple plano-convex lenses. I put a sign in the neighbor’s yard, “See the Moon, 10 cents,” and waited for the crowds. There were some takers but one Sunday afternoon 15 came to the door wanting to see the moon. The cover had blown off my sign.

If my memory holds true, I made all of $3 with that project. Though that scope was small it’s optics were reasonable. I was really excited when in 1957 (not positive of the year)  I was able to resolve the polar cap of Mars on a close approach of 35 million miles.

 I joined the Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society as a junior member and participated in many of the projects the club was undertaking. I built a 6” Newtonian, grinding the mirror, using stove pipe for the tube and melted tire balancing lead weights to make the counter-weight.  The club had about 20 members, meetings were held in the homes of the members except  for the summer months which were reserved for observing sessions and working on projects. The club is still active. They have a 16” cassagrain built by the founding members and an 8” refractor for club use. They also built a 25” cassagrain which is now being operated by Youngstown State University. Information on the club can be found at: http://www.mvobservatory.com/maihtt. I remained active in the club until I graduated from high school in 1961. I attended Ohio University then joined the Air Force where I met my wife. She was teaching military dependents in Japan. We dated in Denmark and got married in Australia, an 8 year courtship. I did take a general astronomy class through the university of Sidney while in Australia on my 2½ year working holiday. ( I had seen an ad, “Australia Wants You,” in a magazine and took the offer of a paid trip.

Although I wanted to stay in Australia, my wife, Carol, and I decided we were too far from relatives in Michigan and couldn’t return easily or frequently. Thus we returned to Michigan to raise our family.

I am presently trying to rekindle my interest in Astronomy now that my family is grown and I have the time. I joined the Warren Astronomical Society a year ago and plan on participating to the extent that family commitments and work requirements will allow. I have a new telescope, an 11 inch go-to, and hope to resurrect my homemade 6” Newtonian which is rusting away in my back yard.

The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 34, Number 6 June 2002