We’ve heard the saying, “All that glitters is not gold.”
Well, if it’s not gold, what else might it be?
“It could be pyrite, or what they call ‘fool’s gold,’” said Terry Wolfe, discussing some of the more common specimens unearthed by the Central Pennsylvania Rock and Mineral Club. The nonprofit group, which was created in 1958, is on a mission to educate the public on the appreciation of rocks, minerals, gems and fossils.
Wolfe joined five years ago and now serves as secretary. He described the organization as friendly and welcoming, which is one of the reasons he continues to renew his membership each year.
“During my first dig, two younger members went out of their way to show me what to find,” said the East Hanover resident.
Betsy Oberheim lit up when Wolfe recounted the story.
“They are an item now,” she said of the young couple.
Oberheim is a self-professed “obsessed” enthusiast who has been with the group since the 1990s, serving as president and vice president. The Piketown resident became involved after returning from a trip out West.
“I found some really neat rocks out there and wanted them identified,” she said.
The retired schoolteacher, who transforms some of her finds into jewelry, took a shine to the group and stayed on to serve in various capacities.
The club meets the third Thursday of every month at the St. Thomas United Church of Christ in Linglestown to swap information on finds, watch documentaries and listen to experts describe life in the field.
“One of our recent speakers was a diamond miner from Africa, and another mined opal in Australia,” said Oberheim.
Once a year, the group gets together to display what they’ve found and maybe engage in a few trades.
“We have a rock swap, and you pay $5 for a table to show off your stuff,” said Wolfe.
Out in the Field
Little nuggets of knowledge are often gleaned on field trips, or what the group calls “digs.”
“There are two field trip coordinators—one for fossils and one for specimens—and they show you what to look for,” Wolfe said.
The coordinators also assume the responsibility for getting the group into areas that aren’t generally open to the public, such as quarries.
“We all sign a waiver and are required to bring along our safety gear,” Wolfe said. “Many of the quarries are between 150- to 180-feet deep.”
Once there, they’ve found things like calcite, fluorite, crystals and pyrite, he said.
“Members have been known to fill up 5-gallon buckets,” he said.
Other notable finds include amethyst (found in an Amish farmer’s field), an untold number of fossils, a type of quartz called chalcedony (in Boiling Springs) and wavellite, which is only found in two places in the world.
“It looks like an umbrella opened up,” Wolfe said. “They dug it out of a quarry and threw it in a pile on the side of the road, and we spotted it. We all gathered around to look at it.”
Sometimes, “finds” don’t reveal themselves until after a dig.
“We hunted for shark teeth at Brownie’s Beach on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, and I was disappointed that I didn’t find anything,” Wolfe said. “When I came home and dumped sand out of my shoes, there it was—a fossilized shark tooth.”
Each year, the group hosts a Rocks4Kids Jr. Education Day. The educational event provides information on such topics as fossils, earth movement, volcanos, crystals, mini mines, petrification and more.
Last year, 200 children attended. Each was given a passport, which was stamped at the learning stations. This year, the event will follow a similar format. Students will not only be given free grab bags, but will have the opportunity to spin a wheel to win a fossil. Refreshments will be provided.
Participation is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. So, Oberheim suggests signing up early.
As a former teacher, Oberheim especially enjoys the opportunity to interact with children, some of whom are being home-schooled and others who attend cyber-schools.
“We help fulfill the science requirement,” she said.
To learn more about the Central Pennsylvania Rock and Mineral Club, including upcoming events, digs, dues and information on joining, visit www.rockandmineral.org.
The annual Rocks4Kids Jr. Education Day will take place on March 9, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Linglestown Life United Methodist Church, 1430 N. Mountain Rd., Linglestown.