Members and Friends images over the years
Scott Smith Cartoons
The beginnings of the Astronomical Club go back to 1982. It consisted of a group of five people who had an interest in astronomy, and wanted to share their thoughts and observations. Those five people were Professor Joe Watlington, Gordon Pafford, Earl Durham, Allen Smiley and myself, Frank Coley. We would meet once a month at one of the members’ homes to set up telescopes for observations and discussion amongst ourselves. This went on for a period of two years as the members of the group gradually lost interest. In 1985, I was working at Wolf Camera, selling telescopes and cameras. This is when I met Wayne Bomar, Superintendent of Bledsoe Creek State Park. He came in the store and purchased an 8 inch telescope for the park, and I asked if I would help him familiarize himself with the scope and to help him set up a program for Haley's comment.
This was the beginning of the Bledsoe Creek Astronomy and Telescope Club. I got in touch with some old friends and ask them if they would help with the “Comet Parties” at Bledsoe Creek State Park boat ramp. This was for the public to view Halley's Comet. The people who brought telescopes were Wayne Bowman, Cecil Johnson Tom Golden and myself, Frank Coley. This group held numerous viewing sessions during the winter of 1985 and 1986. In early 1986, with Halley's comet passing out of view the group decided to form an astronomy club. The Park’s willingness to furnish a telescope and viewing area for the public and private viewing sessions was very helpful in letting the public know that Sumner County had an astronomy club.
We held meetings at the park’s maintenance shop, where we made a video on how to setup and use a Meade 8 inch telescope. We soon had members joining from all over Middle Tennessee. At one point we had close to 40 members. Numerous star parties were held at the park’s boat ramp. We set up telescope displays and demonstrations on astronomy day at the local Walmart for the public to see what we have to offer. The public response was great. Once we had so many people at the boat ramp trying to look in the telescopes, the park had to close the gates.
The club decided to elect officers and seek a charter, however due to the Park's affiliation with the club it was decided that a charter could present legal problems for the State in the club. So the club remained a loosely organized group of individuals that continue to meet have star parties and viewing sessions at local schools and that the park. I, Franco Coley was elected first President of the Astronomy Club. I remain in that position until 1989. At that point in time, I took a job in Texas and the club elected Mike Neal, one of the senior members as Club President. Upon moving back to Tennessee in 1991, the club was started to show signs of weakness. People were not attending as often. In 1992, Mike Neal had to give up his position as president because he took a job in Kentucky. At this point the club became dysfunctional with very little activity until 1997.
In 1997, Randall Smart expressed an interest in getting the Astronomy Club revived. I gave him what information I had as far as past members and their addresses, the club's rules and regulations and wished him well. I told him I would be part of the club, but not active in the leadership of the club. After finding interesting people for the club again, Randall wish to change the name since it would no longer be directly affiliated with a Bledsoe Creek State Park. With a group of four people including myself, Randall Smart, Gail Ingrum and Richard Pryor, the name Cumberland Astronomical Society was chosen. Thus began the new club that still exist today.
Written by: Frank Coley 2006
Cumberland Astronomical Society