Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Man Who Made Mirrors

To celebrate National Astronomy Day today, I wanted to share the story of the man who you’ll see in the dedication of my upcoming book “The Witch’s Mirror, The Craft, Lore, & Magick of the Looking Glass," my grandpa and mirror-maker William M. Vaughan, but if you're his friend, just call him Bill. If you wonder why I dedicated the book to my grandpa, read on...
Grandpa with one of his magic mirrors that he painstakingly ground to the perfect shape and curve himself...what's so magic about it? You can use it to see the stars!

On January 4 1970 The Columbia Missourian Sunday Magazine published an article about my grandpa, and I thought sharing it here on National Astronomy Day would be a cool glimpse into a few of the mirrors that inspired me in my childhood and the master craftsman who made them, my grandpa. While I have posted the article here, I’ve also transcribed it as well as it was written to make it easier to read from my blog. I did take the license of spelling his last name Vaughan instead of Vaughn as it is spelled in the article, I just didn’t have the heart…LOL 

This is the original article as it appeared in The Columbia Missourian, Jan 4, 1970, Either my grandma or grandpa wrote in the name of the paper and the date there at the bottom.  The copy my family still has doesn't include the name of the writer of this article and I haven't been able to find in online. If  I can ever find it,  I will add the attribution.

Giant Eyes

January 4, 1970 Five years ago, Attorney W. M. Vaughan retired from his job as a claims director for an insurance company and hung-up a new shingle in the basement of his home on Route 2 east of Columbia. The shingle reads: “The Meridian Company; Bill Vaughan, President.”

Not only is Bill Vaughan president but vice president, master craftsman, and janitor as well. The Meridian Company makes telescopes, or more accurately, the concave mirrors which are the hearts of reflecting-type telescopes.

Bill Vaughan has been interested in telescopes and astronomy most of his life. Over the years he has read most of the books on telescope-making and optics. Eight years ago he built his first telescope. Since then he has built many. He became so good that he decided to make a business of it.

With the aid of unique contraptions fashioned from washing machine motors, he grinds and polishes mirrors ranging in size from 4 1/4 to 12 1/2 inches in diameter, which are corrected to within one-millionth of an inch. If you ask him how long it takes to complete an mirror, he will say, "It takes as long as it takes," explaining that each glass mirror blank has a personality of it's own, much like a diamond.

Bill Vaughan is proud of his optics. He guarantees them unconditionally. In the past five years he has sold at least one of his mirrors in each of the 50 states and Canada. He has yet to have a mirror returned. 

In pictures, Bill Vaughan works on a six-inch mirror, which eventually becomes part of a Cassegrain telescope (lower center).

Can you believe how thick this mirror is?! I can remember his workshop off the house, there was a little door off the back yard, it was a magical place to be, on the occasions when I went in to see it, I remember being amazed by all the wild looking equipment, and I was always careful not to touch anything!
We still have one of his telescopes in the family. I remember getting it out to see the Hale-Bopp comet when it came past our planet. Everyone in the neighborhood wheeled out their telescopes to get a closer look...can you imagine their faces when a big ole monstrosity like this came trucking out of that garage?!  Everyone's jaws just dropped! Those are shower caps on the ends to keep the inside dust-free!
So that's my grandpa, the master mirror maker. I knew him as that, but also many other aspects of the man. Grandpa, my sister Robin and and I went fishing and ate fresh tomatoes from the garden with salt and pepper. He played the ukulele he kept from his years working and living in Hawaii. He also had one of those electric organs which always made grandma roll her eyes when he played it.
Grandma and Grandpa on their wedding day!
There were several big quartz crystal clusters around their house which I often regarded with great awe. Grandpa was also a 33 degree Freemason which I always found quite mysterious and interesting, all the sacred secrets! I once did a calligraphy page of a poem that he wrote. He performed feats of closeup magic with playing cards, a few of the tricks he taught me, which I have long since forgotten after having practiced them so often in my childhood. He took in a funny little stray dog that he named Boo. Boo earned his name because it took so long for Grandpa to befriend the little foundling. That dog ended up being loyal to Grandpa even through his last days. There are family stories about him being an honest and true man, even in the face of difficulty doing what was right even when it was hard. He was a dreamer, a thinker, and a doer. He was respected by everyone who knew him.
Bill Vaughan as a young man, love that smile!
He was a really cool man, and even though he crossed over to the Next Big Adventure before I even graduated from high school, I made sure my kids all knew him through stories and memories. I imagine he looks down from the stars he loved so much and maybe he has even read the dedication nestled within the pages in my humble little book about magical mirrors.

If you've had the good fortune to see the stars through a telescope made in the late 60's through the 70's there is a small chance that the light from stars millions of miles away was reflected into your vision by a mirror lovingly ground and polished by the hands of my grandfather.

Blessed Be!

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