WILLARD J. "PERKY" PERKINS BIOGRAPHY WRITTEN BY ROCK COURIER
DIED, WILARD J. "PERKY" PERKINS, 84. Willard Perkin was born April 3, 1907 and died November 9, 1991. He was a well-versed field collector of mineral specimens and collected at many localities in the Southwest during the thirties and forties. He did much to popularize the collecting of thumbnail sized specimens by introducing what is now our standard plastic thumbnail box to collectors. He was an early member of the Mineralogical Society of Southern California and a charter member of the Southern California Micro Mineralogists. He made many trips to Mexico, ran a mineral business from his home, sold and exhibited at mineral shows mostly in Southern California. He built a wonderful personal collection of cabinet and hand specimens as well as a superb collection of thumbnail specimens and micro mounts. He was also interested in photography. All of this besides raising a family and holding a full time job.
He became interested in minerals in the mid thirties. At that time he was running a dry cleaning business and the adjacent business was a gift shop whose proprietor used crystals in the manufacture of various ceramic items and had an interest in minerals. He took Perky along on a field trip to Texas Canyon near Newhall, CA to collect green fluorite. Other field trips followed and before long he was hooked. He soon joined the Mineralogical Society of Southern California which had just recently been established in 1931 and this must have introduced him to many local mineral collectors and possibilities for further field collecting. Chucawala Slim, an early dealer in Southern California and a desert character, was soon parking his trailer behind their dry cleaning establishment.
Perky told hair raising tales about crawling more than full length into barite pockets in the cliffs on the Palos Verdes Peninsula near Los Angeles, CA, to retrieve barite crystal clusters. He had wonderful examples of these in his collection. He also collected extensively at the benitoite locality in San Benito County, CA, and cleaned much of this typically natrolite covered material for local dealers as well as himself. He used much of this material as trading stock to build his personal collection. Before the second world war he told of collecting in the still open underground workings of the Gem mine. He encountered an open pocket containing well formed benitoite crystals, mostly floaters, up to three inches on an edge. They were, however, opaque because of numerous crosstie inclusions and rather grey in color. He said he broke open a few to see if they contained any gem material and not encountering any proceeded to give them away.
During the war he worked a stint as a welder for a defense related industry. In the early 1950's he worked three years for George Burnham, who was well known to collectors in Southern California at the time for having fine specimens. Later he worked for many years for a company which made metal specification plaques and instrument dials.
In the 1930's through an amateur magazine, he began trading specimens with Anton Berger, a well known Austrian mineral dealer. After the war this was expanded, but for a while, parcels of food and clothing were sent as well. A number of other California collectors were also involved in this, but Perky was more or less Anton Berger's West Coast representative. Much of the material he received from Berger was of European origin and lent a distinction to his stock of minerals that local dealers found hard to match.