During his time with George Burnham, a salesman of plastic boxes came in and showed them an opaque black, 1.25 inch cubical plastic box. This box was eventually transformed into what is today our standard thumbnail box. He began to sell them and soon they became known as "Perky boxes". The business eventually grew to the point that he began to dread receiving new orders. At this time he sold the business to other people.
Perky went to night school for Spanish and in 1949 he made his first trip to Mexico and the second with his son in 1951. These were the first of dozens of trips, and he had an agreement with the company where he worked that permitted his absence for up to three months a year. He typically made a month long trip at Christmas, Easter and in the summer. Initially he went underground in the mines in Mexico and collected as well as purchased material, but in later years he just purcased from the miners and local dealers.
He did not like to be hurried and drove himself an a succession of VW vans that he cherished almost as a member of the family. One became locally notorious because it eventually had more than 400,000 miles on it. He usually traveled alone in Mexico but sometimes took his son or other youngsters with him. He would usually enter Mexico through El Paso. In Juarez he would stop to buy substantial quantities of candy for the children in the mining camps he would visit. He would typically stop in Santa Eualia, Charcas, Mapimi, Durango, and Guanajuato which was his favorite Mexican town. He would visit many other places in Mexico over the years and the specimens he brought back found their way into many private collections and museums. Perky sold a lot of thumbnail specimens in his business and had a wonderful ability to trim and mount specimens to show them to their best advantage. He was, on occasion, known to buy specimens, work his usual magic on them and sell them back to the person who originally sold him the specimens. All of his specimens were meticulously and neatly labeled. You could always spot his labels.
Perky built a fine mineral collection which was housed in the small garage of his Burbank home, which he had bought in 1940. It was housed in big glass fronted dispay cases that lined opposing walls of the garage which contained the largest and frequently his best specimens. They had glass shelves and sets of drawers below. To young collectors, myself included, it was like walking into a wonderland of specimens whose quality helped us set standards for what really fine specimens were.
In 1971 the Sylmar earthquake shattered the big glass display cases and the specimens cascaded with broken glass to the bottom and onto the concrete floor between the cases. That morning before going to work he opened the door to the garage and looked in on the disaster, then just closed the door to deal with it when he returned in the evening. He took the loss with good grace, but not long after he began to sell much of his remaining collection. We who were able to buy some of his
specimens counted ourselves lucky.
Perky retired from his job in1977, which meant he had more time to devote to his mnerals, traveling and photography. He kept his collection of thumbnail size specimens and micromounts, and his family had decided to keep those collections. Now, much of those collections have been sold.
He was an early and enthusiastic micromounter in th West, and attended many micromount conferences, sharing specimens with his friends. He had an appreciation of the beauty in nature and even in the small things in which it was often displayed. He developed an intense interest in photography and specialized in photographing very small flowers on plants that are not commonly thought of as having much in the way of flowers. He sold large prints of some of the flowers at some mineral shows.
What else? Oh yes, he loved fried codfish, kept goats in the back yard and we all miss him a
The list of people who helped with this article reads like a who's who of the senior collection fraternity of Southern California. Thanks to Pat Perkins and her son Bruce, Gus Meister, Morrey Hebner, Larry Higley, Bob Massey, Juanita Curtis, Fred, Linda and Edward Elsnau, Jessie Hardman, Sack Streeter, Wendell Stewart, Peter Bancroft, Stanton Hill, Ralph Dietz and George Burnham.
The Mineralogical Record, volume 23 May-June 1992
Reprinted with the permission of Rock Courier and the Mineralogical Record
Perkin Biography Cont.