Fossil Fetish

Crestwood geologist Oldham
to show his rock collection at open house

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (December 2002) – Charles Oldham is a geologist by profession, a rock hound by choice.
“I have been actively collecting since I was 14,” said the Crestwood, Ky., resident of his obsession for rocks, minerals and gems. This hobby turned profession led Oldham to become a charter member of the Kentuckiana Geological Society in 1964.

Charlie Oldham

Charlie Oldham
and his rock collection

Oldham, 52, can’t remember a time when he wasn’t interested in rocks. This interest became entwined with art when he attended a school in Georgia where he learned the basics of glass bead designing, glass fusing and wiring.
Not only does he study and collect rocks, he also crafts exquisite jewelry from his rare finds.
Oldham’s intent interest with earth sciences has led him to be a past show chairman for the Kentuckiana Geological Society’s annual Mineral, Gem and Fossil Show, held Nov. 8-10 in Louisville, Ky.
This educational event showcased 12 dealers, all of whom displayed fossils, minerals, jewelry, polished gem stones and lapidary supplies. Oldham said the show draws interested people from several surrounding states, the farthest having traveled from Michigan.
Society president Milt Leet said mineral shows such as this take place throughout the year and draw upon individuals like Oldham that have informative programs to present to the public during other times of the year. Oldham said he has worked with school groups and scouts to educate them about the Earth’s treasures.
Meeting on the third Tuesday of every month, the society sponsors programs that feature slide presentations, speakers, exhibits or discussions to inform and stimulate an interest in some aspect of geology. The society also holds seminars, workshops and training sessions to educate others about the earth sciences.
Leet said Oldham is “a very influential and knowledgeable individual. He works hard to show the educational side of things. He’s very open to presenting his knowledge to people in training sessions, general conversations or informal programs.”
Leet said Oldham is one of a diversified bunch of people with an interest in earth sciences that comprise the Kentuckiana Geological Society. Monthly field trips for the society range in location from museums and glassworks factories to dig sites.
The group tries to spark an interest in children by participating in the annual Falls of the Ohio Fossil Festival in Clarksville, Ind., where they demonstrate how to make gem trees and provide small rock starter collections to children, said Leet. The Falls of the Ohio, a naturally exposed 220-acre Devonian fossil bed, is a natural setting for geologists like Oldham.
Born in Ohio but having lived most of his life in Kentucky, Oldham currently works as a geologist for the state of Kentucky in the Department for Surface Mining. Oldham, who has written several short books about his interest, plans to one day “write several extensive books on it.”
For the past two years he has been the editor of MAPS (Mid-American Paleontology Society) Digest, for which he has contributed many articles.
Oldham will share his knowledge of rocks with the public again on Dec. 7-8, when he will hold an open house on his property at 7405 W. Hwy. 22 in Crestwood, Ky. His craftsmanship will be displayed for sale in an adjacent art studio.
Betty Hansel has been friends with Oldham for the past decade and assists him in this open house. “I really enjoy doing it,” she said.
While Hansel was a teacher at Price Elementary School in Jefferson County, Ky., Oldham came into her classroom to give presentations and bring rock kits to inform the children about minerals, fossils and rocks. She said the children really enjoyed this, feeling afterwards a “natural connection with the earth.”
Hansel said that Oldham has spent most of his life collecting rocks and fossils. His open house is an “enjoyable way to spend an afternoon viewing specimens and meeting new people,” said Leet.
A fire will be built in the fireplace inside the studio Oldham built himself. Hot cider will be served in what Hansel termed a warm and inviting, unique center for people to gather in.
In the past, Oldham has held an annual Christmas party for friends, in addition to holding a separate open house. He said he decided to combine the two events now that he has a shop built to display his mineral and fossil cases, giving the open house more of a party atmosphere.

• The public is welcomed to attend this open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 7, and from 1 - 6 pm. on Sunday, Dec. 8. For more information call Oldham at (502) 241-8755.

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