JSNH&B home • Winter 2008 • vol. 1 no. 1

"Charles Haley, California State Geologist"

by Brian Haley

Dean, Library/Learning Resource Center
Sierra Community College

quoteHe used to tell me stories about his gold mining days …unquote

My father, Charles Scott Haley, was a native Californian who was born in the Victorian age. Throughout his life, he kept the quiet and courteous dignity that was the hallmark of the Victorian gentleman. He never boasted about himself or his family and he rarely lost his temper. I was the youngest of his six children, and, as he had delayed marriage until the age of fifty, by the time I was born he was retired from his profession of mining engineer and consultant. He used to take care of me while my mother, twenty three years younger, taught first grade at Nevada City Elementary School.

gold nuggetI remember his serving me exactly what he ate, so early on I became an aficionado of tamales, codfish cakes, and bacon. He loved to read and always had books around him, probably the reason I ended up in my profession of librarianship. He used to tell me stories about his gold mining days and how much he enjoyed the thrill of discovering a rich placer deposit or a vein of pure gold in the pure white quartz of a hard rock mine.

From discovering gold to gambling

Charles Haley and wifeOne summer during his college years he tried to find that same excitement in the gambling halls of the Alaska gold rush, only to lose all of his savings amongst the flashing lights, music, and clicking wheels of the "mechanical bandits." He learned his lesson and stuck to the pursuit of legitimate gold after that. At the end of his life, the time that I knew him, he was pursuing the metaphorical gold of the philosopher in preparation for his own death.

Like me, he loved Greek and Latin literature and poetry, and could still quote lengthy passages from the Iliad and Odyssey that he had memorized in high school sixty years earlier. There is a line from the end of a Plato dialogue (the Phaedrus) that sums up my father for me—he may have even quoted the original Greek to me, "May that amount of gold be mine which only the temperate man is able to bear and understand." Many years after his death in 1958, I found in a book of his a poem he had written as a young man of twenty-nine. Here is the last stanza of that poem: "Soft as the whisper of angels, Twilight steals from afar, Clear as our faith in our dreaming, Shines the evening star."