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Rob Woodside's Mindat Home Page

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Rob's Mindat Home Page

Registered member joined prior to 15th Oct 2005 (unrecorded)
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Rob Woodside has uploaded:
270 Mineral Photos
2 Locality Photos
34 Other Photos
 
When I was 8 and walking home from school one day, just like any other day, I noticed that not all rocks were the same. This amazed and intrigued me and I arrived home very late but with an arm full of rocks. The door was locked and that was a bad sign. I knew I was in trouble for worrying Mom. On opening the door, seeing the rocks, and hearing my explanation, Mom's displeasure evaporated to my surprise. She said Dad would be able to identify them as he had done very well in a mineralogy course. That night Dad refused to identify them until after I went to bed saying that road rock was hard to identfy because it was out of "context". I just thought this was a ploy to get me to bed early. Then next morning when I got up as usual Dad had left for work already. On the dining room table there was a large sheet of paper with neatly arranged specimens to left with little boxes drawn around them and strange names written underneath and on the right a conicle pile of rocks with a big circle around them and a big question mark written below. In the middle was Dana's Manual of Mineralogy, 14th ed., his old textbook from the 1930's, and on it was a loupe, a bathroom tile, a penny, a glass slide, and a penknife. Below was a note saying, "Don't you ever do this to me again. With this book and these tools you can do just as well as me identifying rocks." Later I realized that the poor guy had taken the course over twenty years earlier and had almost forgotten it all. So my first collection was road rock from Pointe Claire, Quebec.

My parents were disappointed that, unlike them, I was not a reader, but I devoured that text and the little I could find written about mineralogy. At first it was the names, habits and localities that amazed me and soon I learned the abreviations for chemical elements and some morphological crystallography. The determinative tables were a God send. Sadly the geology within walking distance was grim- limestone beds with nary a vug and glacial and fluvial alluvium. The most interesting were the glacial erratics. Across the train tracks there was an old brick works with a clay mine and nearby I found limonite pipes in a blue clay. The most exciting thing was Calcite xls in vuggy rock in a neighbour's rock garden. I demolished that rock and stole all the xls!!! I was spoken to about this and promised not to do that again. That was an easy promise to keep as by then I had checked out all the local rockgardens. Fortunately my parents were very supportive, but a little concerned that I was becoming a one dimensional person with my obsession for minerals. Never the less Mom returned from a trip to New York with small gemmy xls of rubellite, light green elbaite, heliador, and amethyst that she got at Conklin's office. Somehow we found out about Dick Brittan and visited his marvellous treasure trove of specimens glued to white cards that covered the walls of his small apartment.Those were the halcion days of rockhounding, but I was adament that I collected minerals and not rocks!!! Dick was one of the cofounders of the Montreal Gem and Mineral Club and Mom even took lapidary lessons from him. I still have her cabs and Conklin's pieces. In several vists to Dick over a couple of years Mom must have dropped near a hundred dollars on specimens for me. One was a most beautiful Azurite with gemmy blue mm xls labelled from San Luis Potosi, Mexico for $10.00!!! and also a 6 cm River Valley Almandite dodec for I think three dollars. Jack Ramsay, a family friend in Toronto who was also an amateur lapidarist sent a couple of parcels of unlabelled material to me. One Xmas I got Dana's Textbok of Mineralogy that Dad had got from a co worker, Stan Given, who regaled me with tales of the zeolites near the Colorado School of Mines. (Recently while visiting Alex Homenuke, a School of Mines alumnus, I saw a list of Alumni and Stan wasn't there. ???) The best of all were two Xmases when when Dad got a hundred or so of the 15 cent study specimens from Ralf Merrill at Minerals Unlimited from lists I had carefully prepared using his ads in Gem and Mineral Magazine. I also got the Quebec Department of Mines mineral collection of forty or so 1x2 inch specimens with light green Georgia talc, Hunan Stibnite and Arkansas rock crystal etc. I also got the Geological Survey of Canada's set of mineral and rock chips. Sadly bugetary cuts have killed these important aids. In 1958 when I was 10 Mom took me to Toronto for the Canadian National Exhibition. That was interesting, but a day in the Mineral Gallery at the ROM was a day in paradise. So my second collection was anything mineralogical glued to white cards kept in woden flats that Dad had made and stored under my bed. By this time I knew I wanted to be a curator in a mineral museum and could see no reason to go to high school as they didn't teach mineralogy there.

Don Francis who was a year older and later became Chairman in McGill's geology department lived up the street and had a collection with some intersting things. We saw each other's collections but for some reason (age difference?, competion?) we never became close friends. However at
the 1960 Montrel Gem and Mineral Show I met Wolfgang Blonowski who later became curator at McGill's geology department. As soon as anyone heard I was an only child I was immediately accused of being spoiled and this riled me. Sure I would admit that with more than one kid there was less to go around, but Wolf was my example as an only kid who was really spoiled. He had an Olympus zoom scope and could afford cabinet specimens from Ernst Windisch (NOT to be confused with Hans, his younger brother who later inherited Ernst's business, World Wide Minerals.) Wolf was a few years older tham me and lived in Town of Mount Royal and in a few years was bringing back treasures from Maucher's in Munich when his father sent him to Europe for annual vacations. At 14 I could only afford the $12 for the first volume of Dana 7 and the flats under the bed were getting congested. Realizing that I had neither the space nor the money to collect everything and believing that the best big specimens ought to be in Museums, I decided to systematically collect 1 1/4 x 2 3/4 inch (later 4x6 cm) specimens of elements. sulfides, and sulfosalts in the best state of crystallization possible. That was early in 1962 and I doggedly maintained that mandate until I finally sold that collection to the ROM in 2006.

More to follow...

 

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