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Tidewater Grotto began when an Air Force 'brat" who learned to cave at a Missouri college joined the Navy WAVES and was looking for someone to take caving and found some willing Girl Scouts. It began when a Navy cook from Missouri asked the NSS for names of other cavers to contact. It began when a tall Californian was sent to Norfolk with his ship and started training shipmates to join him in vertical caves. Or maybe it began because so many VPI cavers end up at one time or another in the Tidewater area of Virginia.

Most of these people did not know one another, but their luck was better than that of Chuck Hempel of the Pittsburgh Grotto, who spent a whole year with the Coast Guard in nearby Elizabeth City without locating a single fellow caver despite frantic newspaper ads. Anne Whittemore of the Region produced a list of NSS cavers and would-be cavers for Evelyn Bradshaw whose caving skills are limited but whose wide experience in community organization provided the impetus for formation of a small and informal NSS Grotto in the spring of 1971. The members meet in a private home twice a month to conduct necessary business, hear trip reports, and make plans. Occasionally a formal program is presented.

With the cooperation of the Norfolk Fire Department an excellent facility for practicing and training in vertical skills in downtown Norfolk was made available. All newcomers to the Grotto are now required to participate in at least one vertical practice session. --Evelyn Bradshaw, THE REGION RECORD, Vol. 2, no. 3, Winter/Spring 1972.

In mid-1972, Evelyn, one impetus behind the formation of the grotto, pulled up stakes and resettled permanently in northern Virginia. For awhile the grotto muddled along. Then in 1975, Howard Dame revitalized the group and served as the group's chairman for a number of years. But, in late 1978 he, too, resettled in the D.C. area. What is to become of the Tidewater Grotto is anyone s guess. Before Howard departed, he and other Tidewater Grotto members co-hosted the 19th Fall VAR meeting with the Richmond Area Speleological Society at Natural Chimney's, VA.--AW

Tidewater Grotto member,
Kathy Matthews, 1974.
Photo by R. E. Whittemore.

After a year of caving together on an informal basis, Cato and Susan Holler, Al Clark, Sy Walker, Kee Byrd, Roy Revis, Steve Finley, David Jones, Louis Jenkins, Lynn Jordan, and a handful of others assembled at the Holler's house on November 10, 1971 for the purpose of forming a NSS grotto. Cato was elected the first chairman; Al, vice-chairman (or chairman of "vice", as he called it); Dave, treasurer; Lynn, secretary; and Louis, newsletter editor. After much discussion as to what the group should be named (no, David, "Electric Prunes" is definitely out...), Susan suggested the name Fledermaus Grotto. Thinking of the German operetta Die Fledermaus, meaning, "the bat". This was readily accepted and was later Anglicized to Flittermouse.

After that fateful evening the Tarheel caving scene was never to be the same! This group had been preceded by five other North Carolina grottos which had all done the bulk of their caving out of state and had eventually all fallen by the wayside. Now, here was a new group of diehards who were determined to concentrate a lot of their efforts in exploring the karst and, more commonly, the pseudokarst of North Carolina. The Flittermice received their charter on January 6, 1972 and became NSS Grotto #193.

The Oregon Grotto assisted the new group in printing the first series of newsletters (DER FLEDERMAUS). Later on, a less expensive spirit duplicator format was decided upon and a thinner version of DER FLEDERMAUS, known as the FMG MONTHLY MAILING was printed for about a year before the group decided to go back to a regular- sized newsletter. This has been published on a fairly regular monthly basis ever since.

The Flittermouse folks have enjoyed over seven years of caving together under the following chairmen: Cato Holler Jr.,, David Jones, Joel Stevenson, Tom Lance, Steve Maynard, and Alywn Clark. The accomplishments of the grotto as well as the names of individual members, both past and present, are far too numerous to list. Suffice it to say, however, that Flittermouse members have done extremely well at regional competitions, as well as carrying off gold medals, blue ribbons and other awards at NSS conventions.

Some of our members have caved a great deal throughout the U.S., as well as traveling to Canada, Mexico and abroad. The Flitter- mouse flag which was designed by Louis Jenkins and Nilsa Lobdell, was flown proudly from the rugged Alpine karst of Wyoming to the bottom of Gaping Gill Pothole in the Yorkshire Dales of England. continued
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