Eclipse shines brightly on Mayfair families

Dozens of children and adults gathered outside Lincoln High to make pinhole viewers and witness the Northeast’s first solar eclipse in decades.

TIMES PHOTOS: WILLIAM KENNY

On a day when countless Americans gazed skyward to view one of the rarest of celestial events, dozens of children, parents and grandparents captured their own slice of the Great American Eclipse Monday at Lincoln High School.

The Mayfair Community Development Corporation and Mayfair Arts Initiative partnered with Mayfair Memorial Playground volunteers to present an eclipse viewing and crafting event on the Lincoln campus. It was an almost spontaneous affair, the organizers said: a thought led to a Facebook event post, which attracted a crowd.

But, in spite of sporadic clouds that obscured the action much of the time, most of the kids seemed to gain a new amazement for the wonders of the universe. And so did a lot of the adults.

“It looks like an eyeball but bigger, way bigger,” Tom Hylan, 9, said.

“That was real cool,” said Mayfair’s Hannah Adams, 7, who accompanied her mom, Becky, and three siblings to the event.

“It’s educational and fun,” Becky Adams said. “I think seeing it through glasses and boxes made it more real for (the kids). I think once they get older, they will remember it for a long time.”

Some of the more senior folks on hand reflected on their own childhood experiences with earlier eclipses. Barb Baur, who was recently named community artist in residence of the Tacony Learning and Arts Building, thought back to 1970. That March, the optimum viewing area of a total eclipse skirted the Atlantic coast from Florida through Maine, according to NASA data posted by Wikipedia. Other attendees in their 40s recalled a February 1979 eclipse. That, too, was a total eclipse, although the optimum viewing area passed through Washington state, Idaho and Montana before circling northward into Canada, according to the NASA data.

In each of those instances, much like Monday, only a partial eclipse was visible in the Philadelphia area. But unlike those earlier celestial events, Monday’s total eclipse spanned the country from coast to coast. The optimum viewing area began in Washington state and angled southeastward through South Carolina and into the Atlantic Ocean, offering people in all 48 contiguous states an opportunity to view a partial eclipse. That hasn’t happened since June 1918.

The anticipation was palpable as families prepared for the Mayfair viewing.

“She thinks it’s going to be dark when it happens,” Kristin Mangan said of her daughter Rylee, 9.

“And she’s excited because it’s the first time in her lifetime,” Kristin’s husband Tom said.

The Mangans’ son Jude also joined in the fun. Before the eclipse, Baur and Mayfair Memorial co-founder Mia Hylan helped the kids craft pinhole viewers from cereal and shoe boxes. The devices work much like pinhole cameras, allowing users to see the brightness of the sun as a projection on a white background, rather than photographic film.

“It’s free, fun and family-friendly stuff for the neighborhood,” Mia Hylan said. “And that’s what the CDC, the Arts Initiative and Memorial Playground are all about.”

Other attendees brought their own solar viewing glasses so they could observe the eclipse directly and safely.

“I remember being in grade school and something (like this) happening,” Tom Mangan said.

“Now we get to see what all the hype is about, I guess,” Kristin added.

The fun wasn’t limited to the families with younger children. Two of the Lipscomb quadruplets, Alexandra and Elizabeth, 18, accompanied their fellow St. Hubert’s High graduate Maryrose Hoger, 18, for an eclipse picnic. Like the younger kids, they made pinhole viewers then set out a blanket under a shade tree and enjoyed apples and water while awaiting the spectacle.

“It’s rare, so why not get out and see it,” Elizabeth said.

“I don’t even know when the last one was,” Alexandra said.

“We were probably too young to remember when the last one was,” Elizabeth concluded. “I just want to see it get dark. I saw stuff online that the temperature’s going to drop and animals are going to get all confused.”

Hoger left her 3-month-old kitten, Beast, at home in the hands of her mom and sister.

Brooke Bonner, 11; Lexi Bonner, 7; and Olivia McClintic, 11, all obtained eclipse viewing goggles about a month ago. Their friend Kaleigh Cunningham, 12, was lucky to find a pair at the zoo on Sunday.

“I really wanted to see it because it sounded cool and my brother was telling me about it,” Brooke said. “At night, I look for the stars and sometimes I look for the sun when it goes blue and orange.”

Lexi said she often focuses skyward, too, looking for rainbows.

Hannah Adams said she likes to look at the clouds and figure out what shapes they resemble. She and her family did a lot of stargazing, too, on a recent trip to the Midwest.

“There are a lot more stars in Michigan than here,” Becky Adams said. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.