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October 31, 2007 > Return of the Boy Paleontologists

Return of the Boy Paleontologists

By Joyce R. Blueford

The Children's Natural History Museum, a nonprofit organization managed by the Math Science Nucleus, held a very exciting reception and field trip that celebrated the "Boy Paleontologists." This is a group of boys who unearthed Ice Age fossils in the Irvington District of Fremont with their teacher Wesley Gordon Sr. in the 1940s. These "boys" would travel from Hayward on weekends to excavate one of the most productive sites of the early Pleistocene.

Host Robert Wieckowski, a Fremont councilmember and lawyer, started the evening by introducing long term plans for the museum. The expansion will include over 1500 square feet of new exhibits that will explain the evolution of the Fremont landscape caused by the Hayward Fault during the Ice Age. Wieckowski is already working with the Alameda Labor Council to donate the labor needed for the expansion.

Joyce R. Blueford Ph.D., a geologist and Board President of the Math Science Nucleus, briefly discussed how the Math Science Nucleus inherited the exhibits from the San Lorenzo school district. The foresight to exhibit the Ice Age fossils by Wes Gordon was heralded. Without his direction, these fossils would not be available for children to take a glimpse into the Ice Age. She emphasized that 150 classes visited the museum in 2006-07, but admitted that the job of creating and maintaining exhibits takes more funds than they are currently receiving.

The majority of the reception was devoted to the Return of the Boy Paleontologists. Phil Gordon and William Charles, two of the original "boys" have been volunteering their time to help curate and organize some of the collections of the museum. Gordon had a career as a high school biology teacher in the Hayward Unified School District, while Charles worked in Italy coordinating cultural tours throughout the country. They have been working on contacting the original boys to create an exhibit on their adventures. They were able to locate three more 'boys' to return for the reception.

Les Kent joined the group with his brother Roy Kent (now deceased) in 1944. Les later became chief preparatory at University of California, Berkeley in the Paleontology Department. He now lives in Hayward.

Jay Broadwell was one of the first to join the Hayward Rock Hounds with Wes Gordon in 1943. He went on to have a career as a meteorologist and geologist and now lives in Lafayette, California.

Leonard Hennigan joined the group with his nephew. He had a career in the military, and as a vocational teacher in Arizona where he now lives.

All the "boys" admit that Wes Gordon had a profound event on the molding of their early attitudes. Broadwell remembers fondly that Wes Gordon was not a leader, but a "pusher" so that all the boys would succeed on their own terms.

The field trip was an enchanted day as the "boys" returned to what is now Sabercat and Mammoth Creek to view a different landscape than 50 years ago. A freeway now cuts across the area dividing the area into two distinct areas, which both yield fossils. A group of younger participants lead by Katie York, a staff member of Math Science Nucleus, decided to go into the steep ravine alongside Mammoth Creek. They were looking along the bank and Michael Semyonov found a dark bone like figure. They dug it out and it was a portion of a scapula from a large mammal.

The Boy Paleontologists have indeed returned.

If anyone is interested in helping at the Children's Natural History Museum, please contact Joyce Blueford (510) 790-6284 or Blueford@msnucleus.org. They are looking for people to serve on different committees to oversee the growth of the museum. More information on the Math Science Nucleus that manages the museum can be found at: http://msnucleus.org.

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