AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 60. My Most Memorable AAS Meeting
Topical, Oral, Tuesday, June 1, 1999, 4:15-6:00pm, International Ballroom South

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[60.02] The Flagstaff Meeting in June 1964

J.W.M. Baars (LMT Project - UMass/INAOE)

My most memorable AAS meeting is the first one, the 116th meeting in Flagstaff , AZ, June 1964. I had been at the NRAO in Green Bank for less than a year and this was going to be my first presentation at a scientific conference. I traveled with my Director, Dave Heeschen, from the newly opened Dulles Airport near Washington non stop to Tucson (try that these days of hub-hopping!). In Tucson, I was met by a friend who exposed me to a phenomenon, unknown in West Virginia: the drive-in liquor store. In those days, the AAS could comfortably meet in a small city like Flagstaff. Today this would be impossible; Flagstaff has grown slower than the AAS. I was fascinated to see and hear many astronomers, but I don’t remember how my own presentation went. The most memorable event was the talk presented hors concours by Bart Bok, who had just returned from Australia to become Director of Steward Observatory. He would give an unscheduled ten minute talk on the new Anglo-Australian Telescope, but instead treated us to a most exciting story of the beauty of the Southern Sky and its astronomical wonders. He went on for 25 minutes without the Chairman daring to stop him! All following speakers were curtailed by a minute and the session finished on time. Flagstaff was, as it is now, a quiet town. There was a bar next to my motel, where I drank two Heineken every day. On the last day, there was no more Heineken. As the bar man said: “I had a six pack and you drank me out of it”. Such was the business acumen in Flagstaff in the mid sixties. Impressive was the trip to Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, where we visited the Chapel, beautifully placed in the hills nearby. I felt the harmony between nature and building was perfect. Encroaching development, right up to the church, have taken away much of the serenity of the place. The evening flight out of Flagstaff was delayed by a summer storm. At the airport, Martin Schwarzschild chatted with me for half an hour and I was barely aware how famous an astronomer was talking to me. On the plane, I sat next to Sidney van den Berg, who never spoke a word of Dutch. Compared to today’s AAS meetings, this one was small and relaxed. That may be the most during memory I have of it. Sometimes, when at a massive meeting, I feel nostalgia to my first AAS meeting.

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