When I first started detecting I would sometimes run into another detectorist while hunting a school ground, park or beach. It was inevitable that we would take a few moments to chat, share finds, ideas, tips and sometimes even sites. I loved those meetings and conversations because up until then I had no one to share my hobby with. I was passionate about detecting, and finding someone else who felt the same was just great. One particular meeting at an old school led to the formation of a local club in Trenton, New Jersey. The individual I met was Ron Womer, and he was the first president. I am pleased to say the Mid-Jersey Research and Recovery Club is still going strong. It was also during that period that I started writing articles for the various treasure magazines.
In April of 1983 I penned an article for Western & Eastern Treasures called “What the Future Holds for Treasure Hunting”. The gist of my effort was to say we needed to start thinking about preserving our pastime. At that time various governmental bodies, both national and local, were starting to restrict our efforts. I wanted to see what other hobbyists thought and see if maybe there was a way we could get the ball rolling, organize and make our voices heard. Coin Collectors had the ANA, gun owners had the NRA, and we had nothing. I added my address to the article and the response was over whelming.
Then in November of the same year I wrote another article, “A National Organization, to Be or Not to Be”. In between the first article and the second I had traveled to almost every club in the Northeast, speaking about the effort and bringing them on board with the concept. At one meeting in Haddon Heights I met Harry Bodofsky, a member of the South Jersey Metal Detecting Club and the president of the First State Metal Detectors group in Wilmington, Delaware. Harry listened to my spiel, and suggested that perhaps getting clubs to form state associations would be the best route. It made a great deal of sense, and that became my passion for the next few months. More visiting clubs and more talks took place. Finally I had detectorists ready and willing to take on the challenge in the states of New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Texas and Ohio.
The state concept worked for a while, but a few just didn’t respond as we had hoped. As a result we continued with our local group in the east (NJ, NY, PA, MD, DEL) and we decided to become a regional association. We chose to call ourselves the “Federation of Metal Detector & Archaeological Clubs”, and thanks to Sam Abramo, a detectorist and attorney, we incorporated. We met every month in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, and we started planning our future. We started our newsletter The Quest, and sent them to each and every member of the clubs in our organization. Soon the manufacturers took notice of what we were doing and accomplishing and we begin receiving monetary assistance, allowing us to travel and bring more clubs into the fold.
Monthly FMDAC meeting, Haddon Heights, NJ, early 80’s
We held our first “Treasure Weekend” in Atlantic City in 1985, and in 1986 we attracted well over 600 TH’ers along with all the manufacturers, treasure hunting greats and our grand prize was a new Ford Mustang automobile. Some may boast of having the biggest treasure show in the country but the Atlantic City events became legend. We had our seminars and banquets at the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino and our hunt field (beach area) encompassed two full city blocks. We had TV coverage and crowds lined the boardwalk to watch the events take place. We didn’t have to coax the manufacturers to attend after that….they looked forward to attending…. and we were on a roll.
During my efforts to organize the pastime I received a letter from George McCrae, the CEO of White’s Electronics, in Inverness, Scotland. He had heard of our efforts, and suggested we contact the “National Council for Metal Detecting” in the United Kingdom. The NCMD was a very well-organized group of clubs and detectorists in England, and had great success dealing with the local governing bodies. George felt that they could give us direction in our efforts and he was dead on. He put me in contact with John Howland and Gerald Costello. John was chairman of the Special Purposes committee, and Gerald was the General Secretary, and they were kind enough to share info, and ultimately attend one of our Atlantic City Conventions. It was at this convention that we met with Don Cyr, president of the Canadian Metal Detecting Association, and formed the World Council for Metal Detecting.
Announcing World Council Formation
With the encouragement, and monetary support of the manufacturers we had our first formal meeting at Longleat Castle, near Bath, England, the following year, preceding the Longleat Rally. A total of 50 FMDAC detectorists went on this trip to England, participated in the Rally and in my opinion it was the beginning of what is now a routine excursion by many detectorists here in the US. A big thank you to Melinda Hazelman for organizing this historic trip.
The FMDAC, at it’s peak, had about 180 clubs from across the country, and we were a very effective and viable group. With the help of the manufacturers we built up a legal fund, and tackled issues to ensure that metal detectorists would not be discriminated against. One of our major victories was overturning a no detecting ban in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia, the largest city park in the United States. Through the efforts of a hired attorney, and countless meetings with the city council we came up with a permit system that allowed access to those who passed a very stringent recovery
A little aside here… When I began doing the FMDAC newsletter I received encouragement from Karl von Mueller. A few phone calls and letters later he was writing small blurbs for the Quest. He liked our effort and I appreciated his support. Later on I finally met Karl at the Lost Treasure Classic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event itself was one of those moments you will not forget…. I was walking the floor of the bourse or arena, and I noticed a quarter on the floor. I bent down to pick it up, and it started moving. Yep, I was had, and on the other end of the string was Karl with a big grin on his face. We chatted for a while and agreed to get together later after the show. His encouragement, his humor and his lively nature is something I will never forget.
In 1988 I accepted a position with Garrett Electronics in Garland, Texas. A decision that has caused me to review over and over its merits, even to this day. Anytime you pick up your family and move them from their roots, it’s traumatic. From New Jersey to Texas was extra traumatic. Anyway, when I left the FMDAC’s reins were turned over to Emery Buziak, a very capable leader. Since that time the FMDAC has had many different presidents, officers, and has had it’s up’s and down’s. I am proud to say however, that here in 2009 the organization celebrated it’s 25th anniversary….no small feat!
I still firmly believe in clubs, and recently wrote a Club News and Views column for Western and Eastern Treasures magazine. What bothers me however is the constant tug and pull between area clubs, their events, and the ongoing “we can do it better”. I want to remind all of you that our hobby, our pastime, is not so big that we can afford to bicker among ourselves. You may want to believe otherwise, but our numbers are small. Extremely small. When I moved to Texas back in 1988, the south was still doing battle with the north, and to this day it hasn’t changed. There are certainly differences. I can attest to that. What bothers me is that it’s not getting any better, and eventually, in my opinion, we will be so divided that when it comes to really rallying our members, we will fail.
There are at least two other organizations out there, very similar to the FMDAC, offshoots of clubs or individuals that did not see eye to eye with the organization for one reason or another. Not a big deal…that is to be expected, and certainly each of those groups is doing what they feel they have to. While I am still partial to the Federation, no one national organization is the right one but is it not possible for these groups to meet, agree on a few standards and then unite in some manner?
I am tired of seeing the old “we posted that legislative alert first”, or “our hunt is the biggest and the best”. What does it really matter as long as the information gets out there and the event is successful. Stop please with the petty and childish I can do it better crap. It doesn’t flatter the pastime and it’s embarrassing to see posted on various websites.