Father, son get second chance to see eclipse
They missed the 1979 total eclipse in Oregon, but this time Madras residents Bartt Brick and his 92-year-old dad, Gene Brick, had their telescopes ready last Friday.
Their interest in viewing the heavens through a telescope began 54 years ago, when Bartt was 14. "We were cleaning out my grandpa's garage, after he passed away, and found a telescope mirror he had made," Bartt Brick said, noting they lived in Prineville at the time.
"We decided to build a telescope, and went to the Crook County Library and got a book on it. It took us four months to build a reflector telescope. The hard part was figuring out the focal point and where to drill the hole for the eyepiece; that took us two weeks," he said pointing to an aluminum tube containing the mirror and eyepiece.
They didn't have a tripod mount for the telescope, so they just tipped a step ladder at an angle and set it on that, propping it with pillows and towels to adjust the view.
"To test it, we tried to locate the Ring Nebula, which you can't see with the naked eye, and it took us until 2 a.m. to find it," he said, noting how excited they were.
The Brick family enjoyed using the telescope over the years. After Bartt went off to college, he remembered, "When I'd come home, dad would have the neighbor kids in the back yard looking at the moon and stars."
In 1979 Oregon experienced a total solar eclipse, but both men missed out. "We're still bitter about that," Bartt Brick said.
Gene Brick was still working back then. "I was working in a Prineville sawmill and they didn't shut down for the eclipse. It wasn't a big item to do that back then. I didn't really know there was a total eclipse either, until afterward when guys told me 'You should have seen it!'" Gene Brick said.
At the time, his son was working in a bank in Sweet Home, which was out of the path of totality, so he missed it, too. He said there wasn't social media and 24-hour coverage back then, so the event wasn't as well publicized.
This time around, both father and son were excited about getting a second chance to view such an event, and were well prepared. Not only did they have the original telescope they made, but had purchased a new one.
"I upgraded and bought this telescope two months ago. It has a computer system with GPS, so after you set it up you can automatically find (celestial objects)," Bartt Brick said, noting both would be set up for the solar eclipse.
"We will have 19 people here, and it will be hard for them all to look through the telescopes, since the eclipse only lasts 2 minutes," he said, adding, "But the eclipse at totality is something you really want to experience with your eyeballs – an experience of a lifetime. Have your solar glasses on, but take them off at totality."
Earlier this spring, an Associated Press article about the Bricks' second shot at viewing the eclipse was printed in several papers nationwide. And last week, they were interviewed by other news agencies, including CBS, NBC's affiliate in Bend, and a Canadian TV channel.
"One of the cool things to come of that was -- Dad was on the USS Drexler, which was hit and sunk during a kamikaze attack during World War II -- and since the news articles, he's had two relatives of sailors who were on the USS Drexler contact him," Brick said.
At their own gathering of friends and relatives on Aug. 21, Bartt Brick said there would be five generations of Bricks, because he's counting the grandpa who made the telescope. "He's in there somewhere," he said of the old telescope.
The other thing he was looking forward to was that his 8-year-old grandson would get to see his great-grandpa Gene Brick still being really excited about science and the eclipse at age 92.