I wrote this little story about the telescope and observatory. The document is attached to my post from April 2012, but I cleaned it up a bit and added a few comments here. I did not talk about it much back in 2012, but I was losing my job and knew that I would be moving. So, although I never posted the telescope for sale, when a buyer showed up one day, I made the regrettable decision to sell the telescope. I really wish I had not. It is very sad even writing this tonight. Now, three years have passed and the telescope and it's history seem to have lost contact with me. Well, here is the story....
In April 1956, the Choate family traveled to Japan to finalize the purchase of the Goto Kogaku 15cm Refractor. A copy of the actual Northwest Airlines manifest is included with the telescope as a piece of this history. One must wonder how a young boy of just 16 years old must have felt flying overseas to purchase this large and gorgeous telescope. Rumor has it the deal was finalized, possibly with the assistance of General MacArthur, a family friend who was living in Tokyo at the time.
A few months later, the telescope showed up at the Choate mansion in Los Angeles in 12 wooden crates. It is from here that the telescope was assembled and the Titan Observatory was born. A beautiful mahogany wood door lead the owner and guest into the starry night sky of the observatory. The original door is forever with the telescope. The included installation manual shows the complex nature of assembling such a large observatory telescope. Goto flew several technicians to the Choate home to assist in a week long assembly.
Joseph was undoubtedly very proud of his telescope. He actually wrote a book report on the telescope which is kept with the telescope. I am sure the telescope was also the talk of the neighborhood. It certainly was the talk of the town. The telescope was pictured prominently in Sky & Telescope magazine in a full page ads. The telescope also had articles written about it and young Choate in the Los Angeles Times and other local newspapers. Original prints of all this material is kept with the telescope. Even long after the Titan Observatory was gone, Goto Kogaku featured the telescope in their 75th anniversary book that was given to a limited 100 dignitaries at the Goto 75th anniversary party. I was given a copy of this rare book. I acquired original velum drawings for the Goto Kogaku display at the worlds fair in 1930 and was able to get these to Goto who sent myself and a friend one of the last copies of the 75th Anniversary book as a thank you gift.
One of the most famous of Jospeh Choates friends was Jon Pons. Jon spent many nights with the Choate family viewing through the telescope , he too a young boy. Today, Jon is known as a master telescope maker, optician, and astronomical genius. Jon was also the master optician for the Griffith Observatory and their giant Zeiss refractor. Jon plays prominently in the future of the telescope. He can be seen with the Griffith Zeiss in a photo I kept with the telescope.
Jospeh Choate went on to be a prominent lawyer in Los Angeles. A picture of him later in life is also kept with the telescope.
Titan Observatory 1961-2001
Unfortunately, the Titan Observatory fell into disrepair during the next 40+ years. The telescope itself was uncared for during this time. In 2001, the Choate mansion was set to be demolished. The contractors contacted the Griffith Observatory to see if they would like to come over and get the telescope. They did not have any space for storage. Jon Pons was working at the observatory and as luck would have it, found out about the telescope. He and a few friends went over to the Choate mansion and hastily disassembled the telescope and removed it from the house. The iron base weighs about 600lbs and Jon told me they actually dropped in down the stairs. Upon close inspection, you can actually see this part of the telescope history as a small indentation in the lower base. All in all, I suspect the stairs sustained most of the impact!
Pictures of the telescope being removed from the home are again kept with the telescope. The condition appeared poor, but really just needed TLC. The telescope was restorable without even having to repaint it!
Goto Kogaku 15cm Telescope-Jon Pons 2001-2006
Over the next 5 years Jon Pons took to restoring the telescope. For Jon, this was about getting the telescope back to mechanical and optical operation. One of the biggest challenges was to restore the very rare weight driven clock drive. Though meticulous attention to detail, Jon not only got it working, he restored it to original beauty.
During the later part of the restoration Jon built a rolling platform and rolled the Goto out of his garage where he kept it, onto the driveway outside his home in Van Nuys. I first became aware of the telescope when a post was made on CloudyNight's titled Full Moon Star Party. This post can be seen here
and is still one of the most viewed posts in the Classic Forum of CN and is one of the most viewed on the entire website about a single telescope.
In 2006 Steve Miller purchased the Goto Kogaku Refractor. It was extremely hard for Jon Pons to part with the telescope. He had known it since he was a boy and had become very attached to it. There a quite a long story about the purchase that can only be told under a star lit night sky with several hours of free time to kill. One thing for sure, this purchase would not have occurred without the assistance of Clint Whitman (Caveman). At the time of my purchase, the telescope was operational, but still in poor cosmetic condition. I decided to fully restore the telescope.
I contacted what was now called Goto Optical in Japan. They were very happy to learn the telescope still existed today. They scoured their record book and provided me with the installation manual, instruction manual, and operation manual. I also spoke to some of the long time employees who worked at Goto. Translation was done by a nice lady at Goto. My questions to these employees were based around the different types of plating used on the telescope and other restorations I was to perform. The current condition left no indication of what used to be.
After obtaining the information, I took most of the parts over to a well respected plating company. The owner and I sat down for several hours discussing how each part was to be stripped, polished, and plated. Because of the exact tolerance of the parts, even the thickness of the plating came into play. One of the most exciting parts of the restoration was that the original paint was in fantastic condition. No repainting necessary! Photos of the restoration can be seen here…
The Telescope Today
During my ownership, the Goto telescope made several public appearance at my home and at Mt Pinos in CA. I can remember one of the first years at CSPAMP where the parking lot was full, people were walking for what seemed like miles up the road, and the line at the telescope was 20-30 deep. The telescope thrilled kids during the 4th of July and Halloween each year. Neighbors came to understand what a start party was
I have several photos of the telescope today. As everyone has said, the telescope presents itself well in photos, but in person is absolutely amazing. Through contacts at Goto Opitcal and other Goto collectors in Japan, I have acquired a huge collection of Goto history that is available if wanted.
Choate Family-Original Owners
The telescope was originally purchased for young Jospeh Choate (b1940-d2010) by his father Joseph Choate Sr. (b1900-d1998). The Choates come from a very famous and wealthy family. A bit of history is in order to understand the significance of the Choate family as original owners.
Joseph Choate Jr-Born 1940, d 2010.
Went to Culter academy High School. Joseph’s diploma was left behind at the home and is included with the telescope.
I also have a picture of Joseph when he was about 2 yrs old that is with the telescope. After graduation, Joseph went on to law school and then became a named partner in the firm Choate & Choate in Los Angeles.
Father Joseph Choate Sr.-Born 1900, Died 1998.
District Attorney 1927-1934.
He was a good friend of Douglas MacArthur and Chairman of the MacArthur presidential committee in 1947.
Included as memorabilia with the telescope is a photograph of General MacArthur that is signed and says “To Joseph Choate with cordial regard of an old friend, Douglas MacArthur, Tokyo 1949.” Highly collectible in itself.
Grand Father Joseph Hodges Choate Jr-Born 1876, Died 1968.
Chaired the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, a group established in 1927 that promoted the repeal of prohibition. Upon repeal in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt named Choate the first head of the Federal Alcohol Control Administration (FACA).
Great Grand Father Joseph H Choate-Born 1/1832, Died 5/1917
Great Great Grandfather George Choate-Father of Joseph H Choate, born about 1800’s
GGG Father R.M. Hodges-Father to George Choate, born about 1780’s
History of Joseph R.M Hodges
Choate Family immigrates from England 1643
Choate House still exists today
Edited by Steve_M_M, 20 June 2015 - 12:11 AM.