Children's Natural History Museum
Return of the Boy Paleontologists

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

Phil Gordon, Jay Broadwell, Leonard Hennigan, and William Charlesout in the field. Phil Gordon, Les Kent, William Charles, Jay Broadwell, and Leonard Hennigan at the reception.

Host Robert Wieckowski,  a City of Fremont councilmember and lawyer, started the evening off 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.  He has already is working with Alameda Labor Council to donate the labor for the expansion. 

Joyce R. Blueford, Ph.D., a geologist and Board President of the Math Science Nucleus discussed briefly 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 money.

The majority of the reception was devoted to the Return of the Boy Paleontologists.  Phil Gordon (left) and William Charles (right), two of the original “boys” have been volunteering their time to help curate and organize some of the collections of the museum.  Phil had a career as a high school biology teacher in the Hayward Unified School District.  William  studied music in Italy, teaching instrumental music and coordinating festivals and touring  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 preparator 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.  He now lives in Lafayette, California.

Leonard Hennigan joined the group with his nephew, Danny Hennigan, who now lives in Lincoln, California.  He had careers 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.  Jay Broadwell remembers fondly that Wes Gordon was not a leader, but a “pusher” so that all the boys would succeed on their own terms.

Looking for fossils along Mammoth Creek. Misha Semenov and his fossil find.

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 fossil bearing Irvington Gravels,  dividing the area into two distinct parts, which both yield specimens.  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 Misha Semenov found a dark bone, which has been tentatively identified as a scapula from Camelops.      

 The Boy Paleontologists have indeed returned.