I spent a very enjoyable evening yesterday looking over the records and history of the Detroit Astronomical Society. The DAS has been defunct for around 20 years but one of my friends, upon hearing of my interest in finding the builder of the Rae Klopenstein Mystery Telescope, delivered a plastic tote full of records to me at NEAF. The club started in 1932 and remained active for over 60 years meeting weekly for stretches of time.
I know the records that I have (mostly from 1971 to 1984) are incomplete but I was amazed and impressed but the number of members and their interests. So far I have not found anything related to the RKMT (sorry Tom) but I did find a wide range of members from professors to "Bumper Men" and a range of interests with emphasis on telescope building. In reading parts of a book titled DAS History I found out the club was known for eclipse chasing. Members would travel together for solar eclipses at any opportunity. One of the gentlemen interviewed for the History Book related that he wanted to build a telescope and was in correspondence with Albert Ingalls and Russell Porter during the grinding of the mirror. Once the mirror was done he mailed it to Russell Porter and Mr. Porter tested it for him! Can you imagine the designer of the 200" telescope testing your mirror for you?
I am looking forward to continuing my reading of the history and looking over any other records I can find. The membership listings have given me some surprises as I read them. The DAS address was at one time in the 1970's listed as being on Lauder St. in Detroit - only a mile or so from where a young Clay, in the 1960's, was wondering how to make enough money cutting lawns to purchase a telescope. Another member lived on Coyle St. just a couple of blocks over! Why couldn't I have seen anyone using a telescope in the neighborhood? Looking at a membership record the "Reason for Joining" was given as "Insanity - He Met Dick Locke". I am not sure who Dick Locke was but I expect I can find out - sounds like he had a "reputation". Looking at copies of newspaper clippings in the back of the book I found a 1980 article with a picture of my current neighbor, Jeff Thrush, looking through his "High Power 8" Telescope". Jeff still has that C-8.
I guess my point is these memories are out there and can be found! Once in a while a long time member will share memories of their early days in this hobby with us here. We all enjoy this and should encourage them to do so. There are other older clubs out there and their records can prove a treasure trove of information and memories. Make an effort to find them and look them over.
When I am finished looking at these records I will make sure they are safely returned to the fellow that loaned them to me. I may make a copy of the history book first!