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618Person who started public star parties is a forgotten man

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  • robertb
    Jul 25, 2011
      Frank Palma started the Fort Pickens star parties and carried them on for years.

      The first several years of public viewing at Fort Pickens was done not by EAAA, which was inactive until 1978, but by PJC in the form of Frank Palma taking PJC telescopes out to the campground at Fort Pickens campground-setting them up and letting people view.

      It is my fault EAAA did not take this over earlier. I had the oportunity in 1978, when the club was going again---but, I lacked the imagination to get the club involved. That imagination was provided by Wayne Wooten who also donated his 10" telescope---allowing the club to give such activities with its own instrument.

      Frank Palma had asked me to take over the shows in 1978, when I was replacing Wayne for one school year while he was getting his PhD. Frank seemed surprised that I did not want to do it! Had the thought occured to me that I could get the club involved I would have done it. Wayne was the one who got the club involved in place of Frank Palma---I do not know in which year.

      An old METEOR, possibly 1980, says the club had its telescope in the Quartermaster building so it could be dragged out into the dry moat and used. So, I assume the club had taken over for Frank Palma by 1980.

      When I was the club president, 1959-1967 (at which time I left to major in astronomy at the University of Arizona) I had wanted to give public programs---but my 8" telescope (that I would like to donate to the club---with conditions) was permanently mounted in concrete in our back yard and my father was not willing for me to invite the public into our backyard.

      We owe it all to Wayne Wooten that the club has been giving the star programs---but, Frank Palma deserves credit for what he did in the 1970's.

      When the club was reactivated in 1978, Harold Yesnes, a former member of the 1950's Pensacola Astronomy Club, took back the 10" reflector he had donated to PJC, and, which had not been used in decades, (and, had a mount designed to carry up to a 24") and gave it to EAAA to build an observatory. The observatory plans were shelved when Wayne's 10" donation permitted public star parties---allowing the public to know about the club and permitting a lot of growth.

      Robert Blake, EAAA founder 1959; EAAA reactivator 1978; planetarium director/asst. prof. of astronomy, Odessa College, rtd.

      PS: An examination of the old METEORs will verify this time frame. PSS: I donated my copies of the METEOR that were printed in the late 1960s + late 1970's. Since these were mimeographed with blue ink---they are probably fading. These should be restored to the club's history.