This month marks the fifth anniversary of the charter of the Triangle Troglodytes Grotto. We were chartered as a grotto of the National Speleological Society on December 27, 1989. While I made a note to NSS Internal Organizations Chair Evelyn Bradshaw that I preferred to be chartered on January 1, 1990 so as to be the first grotto of the 90’s, it turns out we were the last grotto of the 80’s!
Stepping back a moment, I think the grotto really got its start when Barbara am Ende moved to Chapel Hill to go to grad school. I had been here a year and was a member of the Central Carolina Borehole Grotto (CCBG) centered in the Greensboro-Asheboro area. I dragged Barbara to a few CCBG meetings and on one or two cave trips. One bright Saturday, she taught several of us in the club how to survey in the then newly discovered Boxwork Crystal Cave (Still no map!) Ken Walsh, who had been active in the Baltimore Grotto also moved to the area for grad school, had contacted me and joined us at a few CCBG meetings. Jon Littlefield, who had caved with his father who taught a t VPI moved here and contacted me. He and his girlfriend Patti Gauche joined us at a CCBG meeting.
Noting that it was difficult to arrange carpooling to meet up with other CCBG-ers on caving trips from the Triangle, Ken asked, “Why not start a grotto here?” Jon and Patti didn’t especially like meeting in the same house with one of the CCBG-er’s mangy dog, so they heartily agreed. I didn’t especially like the 90-mile one-way commute to meetings, and Barbara didn’t have time for such, so we were psyched.
We five met 3 times at the old Mazzios restaurant in Cary [next to Goodberry’s-KW] to discuss forming a grotto. I joked that I was the shortest of the five! From the NSS Members Manual we knew there were several NSS members in the area, including Dick Graham, whom I had known for a number of years. He had in fact started the Triangle Universities Grotto here years before. Thus, we should be able to get the minimum five NSS members needed for charter. The universities each had outing clubs. At least some of those members should be interested in caving. With a well educated (as cavers generally tend to be) general population, we should be able to build a membership base. With a little research, I was quickly able to come up with a list of cavers, former cavers, or wanna-be cavers in the area.
We discussed where we could hold meetings, when, and what to name our club. Barbara said we could use Room 106 of Mitchell Hall at UNC. We set December 5, 1989 for our organizational meeting. A regular meeting time would be decided then. After seemingly endless discussion, we decided we would also determine a name at the organizational meeting.
The meeting drew, by my records, some 21 people. They included Barbara, Ken, Jon, Patti, and me, Wayne Arrington, Jim Bisese, Scott Blaha, John Burke II, Mitchell Dyer, Dick Graham, Frank McNutt, Doug Merrill, Alisa Remington, Richard Richardson, Keith Russell, Carrie Scott, Kelly Victory, Randy Villa, and Rod Willard.
We decided to organize and request grotto status with the NSS. We would have our first regular meeting on January 16, 1990. We would meet thereafter on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 PM. The name received lots of discussion. Dick and Barbara listed possible names on the blackboard, and we methodically voted on and erased the losers. The name Triangle Troglodytes, seemingly by magic, was the last one remaining. It was perfect! A name for a newsletter, the Troglodyte Tribune, was decided thereafter (or was it at the January meeting?) in similar fashion. Barbara agreed to edit as long as she could.
At the first meeting in January, we collected our first set of dues of $5 per year [I remember it as $8/year-KW]. Our first members included Barbara, Ken, Jon, Patti, and me, Dorothy Alert, Bill Berryhill, Scott Blaha, Harry Burgess, Allison Chambers, Mitchell Dyer, Kent Goode, Dick Graham, Pete Hertl, Amy Johnson, Tanya McLaughlin, John Plyler, Charlotte Richardson, Mark Richardson, Richard Richardson, Teresa Shuff, Mike Smith, Bob Underwood, Kelly Victory, Randy Villa, Melissa Weakly, and Rod Willard. We elected Ken Walsh as Chair, Richard Richardson as Vice Chair, Kelly Victory as Secretary, Mitchell Dyer as Treasurer, and Barbara as Editor.
Barbara published the first Troglodyte Tribune in time for the February 1990 meeting. The first grotto trip report published was a pre-trip report of a January 6th trip to Scott Hollow Cave by Amy Johnson, Jon Littlefield, Ken Walsh, Patti Gauche, and Richard Richardson. Its paragraphs were multiple choices where the reader could create his own trip report! The first actual grotto trip report to New River Cave was taken on February 3rd, by Mark Richardson, Teresa Shuff, Sharon Pope, Scott Blaha, Melissa Weakly, Ken Walsh, Robert Thomas, Doug Hindman, and John Canarpe.
In March 1990, Mark Richardson took over editing the Troglodyte Tribune and the rest, as they say, can be told by others on another day. For all those who are there, I hope I got the above correct. If I didn’t, do write your own version and submit it to Pete.
It’s been a wonderful five years. I particularly remember the mapping of numerous caves with various members I could coerce, the great storytelling by Melissa Weakly and later of Laura Appelbaum, the vertical trips with Mark Richardson, Pete Hertl and Bill Schwabenton, the dry humor of Mark Richardson, the mosquito-assisted vertical practices at Pete’s with Charles McEachern, Susanna Clark and Nadi Findikli, and lots more.
I’m sure you have your own memories. It has been a great five years. And the best is surely (Don’t call me Shirley! as Jon Littlefield used to say) yet to come!