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Burton Jirgl

Burton Martin Jirgl was born in California on January 6, 1930, out of wedlock; his mother, Lorena M. Schiefelbein (1899-1990), was an unmarried worker in a Los Angeles hosiery factory. She was the daughter of Mary Glenora Barfell and Herman Schiefelbein; following Mary and Herman's divorce in the 1920's, Mary took back her maiden name of Barfell, and most of her children changed their names to Barfell as well.

Identifying Burton's father is problematic; all that is known for certain about him is that his surname was Jirgl and he was born in Wisconsin, where Lorena was also born. She was single and not living with him in 1930 when Burt was born.

Burt developed an interest in minerals at Pasadena City College while studying under Stanton Hill. His first mineral labels, dating from the 1950's, give his name as "Burton Barfell," and an address identical to that of the house where he is shown living with his mother in the 1930 census -- presumably where they were still living while he was in college. He later changed his surname to that of his biological father.

According to George Burnham, Burt made a trip to Bolivia and brought back a large cassiterite specimen among other things. Burt made two trips down to Mexico, one with his good friend John Ydren and another when he purchased some of the first specimens of danburite to come out of Charcas. Burnham purchased many of the danburites from Burt, and remembers taking a trip to Nevada with Burt, who slept in his clothes on top of the bedding.

Burt had a little shop called Treasures of the Sierra Madre, for 10 or 15 years at 345 West Sierra Madre Boulevard in Sierra Madre, California. He mostly field-collected his own minerals whenever he could. He eventually lost the shop, probably for failing to pay rent. After that he lived in a number of other places, but never had another shop; he and John Ydren often did gem and mineral shows together. Burt sometimes dealt in school supplies, but was not very successful because he was unwilling to work very hard. He was always owing people money and not paying them for months, if ever. Because of this failing he was not held in very high esteem; his nickname in the mineral community was "Jerk Burgle."

Burt did have a flair for interior decorating. He would live in a place for a while, fix it up and then not pay the rent and get evicted, moving on to the next place. For years he lived in a small warehouse behind a fast food chicken place. He sold a few minerals, and made some money by storing an organ and hauling it around for a musician whenever he could get a gig at a wedding or some other event where they wanted live organ music. He fixed the place up beautifully using inexpensive and unconventional materials. Then he moved to another rather large house and did the same, but was eventually evicted for not paying rent.

For some years Burt lived on the second floor of an abandoned school building in Monrovia, with a "dining room" that could seat 75. After living in the school he moved to a house in south Los Angeles. He started taking trips up to San Francisco at that time (possibly for the bathhouse scene; he is thought to have been gay, and he never married). He also spent some time back east working for a chemical company. He was found dead on the floor of his house in Long Beach, California on May 11, 1986, at the age of 56. According to Rock Currier, Burt was in inelegant person but fun to talk to for a while.

CURRIER, R.H. (2007) Personal Communication (with thanks to George Burnham!).
California Birth Index
California Death Index
Social Security Death Index
U.S. Federal Census 1930
LARGE, DUANE J. (2008) Personal communication.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Burton Jirgl Burt Jirgl's earliest label, giving his name as "Burton Barfell." It is dated 1955 on the back.
The Mineralogical Record - Burton Jirgl 42 x 74 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Burton Jirgl 41 x 72 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Burton Jirgl 44 x 101 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Burton Jirgl 44 x 101 mm
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