HISTORYThe information presented here was gleaned from the writings of Stan Manro and various newspaper articles that he had saved over the years. Stan was president of the TAA from 1978-1993
The First Club
The Telescope That Needed an Observatory
The Tulare Astronomical Club was growing and needed its own large telescope. In 1966, an astronomy enthusiast in Tulare, Harry Brewster Brown, died before he completed his homemade telescope. His daughters contacted Stan Manro and asked him if the Tulare Union High School would be interested in a partially completed 10-inch telescope. Manro said that the school had no place for it but he was interested and knew someone that could finish the scope for their father. Manro contacted Pursell who was more than happy to finish it. The 10-inch mirror, secondary holder (spider) and focuser, needed to be mounted in the tube. During the moving process the 10-mirror, that Mr. Brown had made, fell out of the tube when the movers picked it up and was broken. Manro and Pursell asked the daughters if they would be interested in purchasing a new mirror so that the telescope could be finished. They agreed and Pursell completed the work on the scope.
The acquisition of the 10-inch telescope created new challenges for the club. First, the telescope needed to be mounted. The machinists, at the Merv Fulton Pumps Shop, built the equatorial mount and polar axis with a sidereal drive and declination scale. Second, a 10-inch equatorially mounted telescope needs to be permanently mounted in an observatory. To build an observatory, the club needed to raise money for its construction. Third, the observatory needed land away from city lights. Harry Brown’s Daughters offered to donate land, on their ranch, for an observatory. Pursell thought the land was too close to the city lights so he declined the offer. Purcell asked Bob Heitzeg, a childhood friend and farmer, to donate an acre of land for the observatory. The land was located about six miles south and west of Tulare. Heitzeg agreed to donate the land as long as it was used for astronomical purposes and a Deed was drawn up.
The club still needed to raise money for construction of the observatory. To advertise and stimulate public interest in the observatory, the club put the telescope on display in the front Leggetts Department Store downtown Tulare to raise money.
This 1966 newspaper photo, from the Advance-Register, reads
“Tulare’s eyes in the sky” went on display today at Leggetts Department Store. A group of Tulareans interested in astronomy are attempting to raise funds for an observatory that will house the telescope and mounting. Shown here with a photograph of the moon taken with the camera is Arthur Pursell, seated, and Stanley Manro.
The Second Club
This is when the Tulare Astronomical Club incorporated and became the Tulare Astronomical Association. Now the club could take tax-deductible donations from individuals and organizations. Everett Milnes made a proposal to the Tulare Lions Club to help raise funds for the observatory. They raised $2,500 for the metal rotating dome.
The original plan for the observatory was for a flat roll-off roof. It is much cheaper to construct. The Tulare Lions Club would have none of that. They wanted the observatory to look like an observatory. They said the observatory should have the real thing, a dome. They ordered it from the east and had it shipped, assembled and mounted on a circular structure of cement blocks. It functions just like the professional domes do. By the fall of 1967, a 16’ X 32’ lecture room and restrooms were completed. All labor and materials were donated.
The Tulare Astronomical Association 1967
Back row: Suzanne Nelson, Arthur Pursell, Bill Thompson President of the Lions Club, and Loyd Benson
Middle row: Reynold Benson, Evert Miles Lions Club member
Front row: Zaven Egoian, Stan Manro, and Bob Heitzeg land donor.
This 1982 newspaper photo of Two of the TAA founders Stan Manro, Left & Arthur Pursell, Right, inspecting a refracting telescope.
1982. Arthur passed away in March 1986 age the age of 95 and Stan in September 1996 at the age of 85