Thursday, May 17, 2007

Could Lovecraft had been a Clyde Tombaugh?

If only HPL's grnadpa had lived, gotten him math tutors, and Lovecraft had not been so sickly, he might have discovered Yuggoth!

Here are anecdotes of Tombaugh from a recent article.

Posted Online: 2007-05-17

Area residents reflect on connection to Tombaugh

STEPHANIE SZUDA,, 815-431-4087

Robert Bonebrake, of Streator, jokes about how he traveled all the way to El Paso, Texas, to meet a famous Streatorite. In the 1950s, Bonebrake, then in his 20s, was enrolled in the Army and stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas. He always had an interest in science and technology, citing astronomy as a pertinent interest.

When he heard Clyde Tombaugh was giving a presentation in El Paso, he and a friend made arrangements to attend. After Tombaugh's speech, Bonebrake and his friend were able to speak with Tombaugh one-on-one. While answering the men's questions, Tombaugh mentioned his Streator roots and Bonebrake told him he also was from Streator. The two spent several minutes reminiscing about Streator, but Bonebrake couldn't remember the specifics of the conversation while speaking with The Times recently.

Bonebrake described Tombaugh as personable and dedicated to his work. Before hearing the speech, Bonebrake had never heard of Tombaugh and was unaware he was from Streator.

Dorothy Grubb, on the other hand, heard about him all time. "I got a little bored with it at the beginning," laughed Grubb, of Streator.

Grubb, 94, married Leon Grubb, Tombaugh's cousin, in 1935, when the family was still abuzz with Tombaugh's accomplishments after he discovered Pluto in 1930. "I soon learned it was a fact and was very pleased to be associated with him," Grubb said.

In 1959, Grubb and her husband traveled to Las Cruces, N.M., to visit Tombaugh and recalled one incident when Tombaugh wanted to show his guests his office at New Mexico State University, but was denied access to the building.

Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Union, was visiting the U.S. and security was, therefore, tightened.

"Clyde was quite embarrassed, but he said, 'Well, rules are rules.'"

Grubb has a large collection of memoirs from Tombaugh's discovery, including clippings from newspapers and books he published. "You wouldn't know he was anyone famous," Grubb said. "He was just a common, everyday, farm boy."

Scott Swanson, of Ottawa, echoed those sentiments. Swanson had a keen interest in astronomy as a child and wrote letters to Tombaugh, probing him on his discoveries.

Tombaugh corresponded with Swanson a few times through letters. Swanson was impressed such a busy man would take the time to write a third-grader, he said. Swanson, who grew up east of Streator near Ransom, still has the letters today.

Sandy Tombaugh is a fairly new addition to the Tombaugh family, so she
doesn't have many memories of Clyde. However, she does have some interesting facts to share.
"He ground the lens himself," Sandy said of Tombaugh's telescope in an e-mail to The Times. "The Smithsonian asked if he would donate it to them for their museum, since he was well into his 80s. He declined, saying that he was still using it!"

Her 8-year-old son, Tyler Tombaugh, was quite distraught at the news of Pluto's demotion in August,she said.

"He said, 'How can they take away 'our' planet, Mom? It just isn't fair!'"

Tyler's connection to Clyde and Pluto are a rarity in the Elk Grove area where he lives, so he has acheived celebrity status in the suburb, Sandy said.

The family plans to make the trip to Streator for the Planet Pluto Expo.

According to an autobiography a reader mailed to The Times, Tombaugh's family farmed near Heenanville until 1922, when they moved to Kansas, Heenanville School was built in about 1882 and originally was known as the West Mackey School.

Many students who attended the school wrote an autobiography in the late 1960s, said George Lukach, of Streator, who also has a copy of Tombaugh's autobiography. Heenanville was a mining town northwest of Streator, he said.

The autobiography gave a timeline of Tombaugh's progressing interest and study in astronomy, dating all the way back to the third grade.

One Heenanville School publication recalled the drawings of solar systems even back in his early education.

The reader highlighted this selection from Tombaugh's writing: "Many times my thoughts have turned to recollections of the Heenanville School. I am happy that the Pluto story has been inspirational to my schoolmates and the younger generation of the community. It was a thrilling adventure to probe the depths of space."

In 1962, a petition to annex the Heenanville School District was granted and the 113 students attended Grand Ridge School the following fall.

The school would have closed regardless of the petition because of decreased enrollment. It was the last public one-room school in La Salle County to go out of existence.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Google Analytics