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Why I Became a Sand Geologist

Posted by Jerry Bergosh on

First let me introduce myself, my name is Jerry Bergosh, and I've been a geologist for 42 years and have been selling playsand for 25 of those years. Sand has played a large role throughout my life; below I chronologically organized my life and how I came to where I am now. I hope you enjoy.

1937-47
It all started with my Mom. She grew up in a big city, married my Dad who was from a very small town in western PA. As newlyweds during the Great Depression, they lived with my Dad’s family as he worked in the coal mines and was in charge of the Explosives Shack. Not exactly a career with a promising future!

My Mother

So that was to much for my Mom who had grown up in the city and was unfamiliar with life in the coal mines. They moved to the big city and stayed with her family while my Dad served in the Merchant Marine during WWII. Extra money just didn’t exist and since they grew up during the Great Depression frugal wasn’t just a word, it was the only way of life.

For entertainment Mom would load my older brother and sister (I came along a lot later) onto the L Train, arrive at Coney Island for a day at the beach and the Steeplechase ride. Getting one of those famous Coney Island hot dogs was not in the budget. Mom always made her trademark sandwich which became famous and beloved in our family. Lettuce & tomato between white bread with extra mayo, salt & pepper, all wrapped in wax paper.

Mother and Brother at the beachAnd according to my sister Barbara, “those sandwiches tasted better because they had beach sand in them”. A sandwich with real sand in it. A lettuce & tomato sandwich is still our all-time favorite to this day! So you can see the sand connection in our family started early.

1951-57

Fast-forward to 1955 and I am 3 years old, Mom and Dad had moved out of the city in 1951 and were living the dream many strove for post-WWII. According to my city aunts and uncles, my parents moved to the “end of the world”. My parents had a small house with a garden, a car and guess what my brother and sister did every day? Go to the beach by hitchhiking there (things have obviously changed)!

And not just any beach. This was Fire Island. A 35-mile long stretch of perfect sand and Mom recognized the beauty of this place on the very first visit. No carnival-style amusements like Coney Island; just beautiful sand and a beach that stretched for miles and miles.

See that picture of me in 1955? My first geology job digging in the sand at where else? Fire Island!

1970-74

We moved again when I was almost 5. This time we moved even further into the country and what my parents called their dream house. It was by the biggest lake around and I could ride my bike to it everyday. Good sand too. Got a lifeguard job there my senior year in high school and spent the next two summers lifeguarding and digging deep holes in the beach (on my breaks of course) so I could examine the sand layers.

By 1972 I was finishing my sophomore year at Rutgers University, where I did my undergraduate degree, and it was time to declare a major. Given my interest and enjoyment in beaches and sand, geology was the obvious choice. This decision was further solidified at the end of the summer of 1972 when my supervisor told me I was one of a select few being promoted to being an ocean lifeguard. Dream come true!

Me as a life guard

Best of all, my assignment was on the eastern portion of that 35-mile long beach Mom & Dad loved. The most remote stretch – no road access, only way there was by boat across a two-mile wide bay. And it was amazing. I spent two summers there, watching currents and tides, storms and hurricanes, the effects of wind & water, all on a narrow strip of sand we in geology call a barrier island. I felt like I had my own geology lab and that was the start of HOW I became a sand geologist.

1975-92
After I got my degree, the geology business took me to some pretty cool places where I got to study geology first-hand; Prudhoe Bay Alaska, offshore and onshore in California and the Gulf Coast. In 1978 I was transferred to Salt Lake City and ‘sat’ a well (geology for living and working on the well-site) in Wyoming that went down more than 26,000 ft. It took over a year to drill that deep and was a record depth for the Rocky Mountains at the time. And it was a very, very expensive dry hole!

But being based in Utah was another dream come true. Being a skier and loving the red-rock deserts of Utah was the ultimate for this geologist. In 1989 I quit my ten-year long job as a research geologist to start my own analytical geology company. In 1992, on one of my geology field trips, a friend suggested I field-check an interesting sand deposit.

I brought back a bucket of this very cool orangy-red desert sand that my kids – and every kid in the neighborhood – loved! They asked me how old was the sand and I replied it was from the Jurassic Period. They said, "then it's Jurassic Sand" and this was more than a year before the famous movie Jurassic Park premiered.

And so our Original Jurassic Play Sand was named and we used it for sandboxes because it was so clean and dust-free. The Jurassic PlaySand Company was officially in business! Our values still haven't changed, we are still a four person company that strongly believes in the benefits of sand play, you can read more about us here.

1992-1993
What really made me devoted to the value of sand in a person’s life was a highly personal experience. I unfortunately joined the ranks of divorced and of course it was incredibly difficult on the family, especially my two young boys Jeff & Scott. They had an impossible time processing and understanding why their parents were not together anymore.

My boys Scott & Jeff

And that’s when I discovered the therapeutic value of Jurassic play sand as a way of bringing the family closer. My boys had a very hard time talking about what was going on until one day when we set up a sandbox in the back yard. It was only then – while stroking the silky-soft Jurassic sand, building sandcastles and roads and just playing – that they started to talk about our break up. And it helped us all to get through the most difficult time in our lives.

1994
I didn’t recognize the value and contribution that playing in the sand could bring to a difficult life situation until two years later when ‘play therapists’ started buying our Jurassic Sand. They practice play therapy – a form of counseling that uses a tray-full of sand and allows the person being counseled to express their feeling while being distracted by a non-threatening form of play. It was exactly what I had experienced with my boys during that difficult period in our lives.

That realization made me dedicate my life to getting good play sand into more people’s lives. And that is WHY I became a Sand Geologist. The power of sand to heal and bring families closer, to experience the fun of being a kid again or just give you – a parent and grandparent – a chance to spend quality time with the children in your family, on their level, is unparalleled by any other medium.

2016
So here we are starting our 25th year in business, still selling the best all-natural sands that Mother Nature can make. As I’ve said many times before, I’m just the lucky geologist that gets to go search for them. Special thanks to my Mom & Dad for their love of the beach, taking us frequently and moving me close to a beach as a kid. It set this amateur geologist on course to become the Chief Geologist and The Jurassic Sandman. And a lover of great sand.

So get out and feel the sand between your toes or make a sandcastle with a loved one – I guarantee you will feel better, love life more and experience the fun you had as a kid, with your kids and grandkids. Is there anything better than that?


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