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John Schnabel - Discovery Channel photo



Parker Schnabel - Discovery Channel photo



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Gold Rush is a documentary about gold mining. The series began with several novices learning the trade as they went along. During the six season documentary series a man in his 90's evolved as the star of the show. That man, John Schnabel, mentored and taught his grandson who was 75 years his junior how to be a top gold miner and most importantly how to mature as a young, responsible man. On March 18, 2016, John passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 96. Regarding the series this man CAN'T BE REPLACED…


Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Gold Rush is a television show that I've watched from season two but never reviewed it. Each season got better and better but the two people on the show that captivated my attention the most was 91 + year-old John Schnabel and his then teenage grandson Parker.

John took Parker under his wing from the time Parker was in grade school and had him visit his Big Nugget Mine in Alaska and mentored him to what gold mining was all about. . Though it was not disclosed on the show the elder Schnable had a colorful life prior to becoming a gold miner.

Born in 1920, John was the son of a Kansas wheat farmer. His father brewed bootleg alcohol during prohibition and the family had to leave the farm when the US Marshals came looking for him. At 19 years old, John packed up his possessions and took a steamer north to Haines, Alaska, where he joined his father, who had set up a sawmill.

The day after Pearl Harbour was bombed, John volunteered to join the US Navy, but was placed in the Air Corps. After the war he returned to Haines and in 1946, he bought Porcupine Mill, which, after he renovated it, could produce 10,000 feet of board wood per day. John went on to open a local hardware store and was later elected mayor of Haines.

At 68, John suffered heart problems and underwent a triple bypass. His doctor recommended that he keep active so John bought the Big Nugget mine and started gold mining. He taught his grandsons Payson and Parker how to prospect, pan and operate equipment and passed on to them his passion for gold mining.

The show really evolved when John felt that Parker was knowledgeable enough to give him control of the mine when he was a fuzzy faced senior in high school that went to Alaska on his summer break.

Parker suffered in his first season in charge and mined very little gold while chalking up a loss. John gave him support and basically taught him how to take losses and inspired him to persevere.

Gold Rush is set up to be a competition between three mining companies to see who could mine the most gold. At the beginning of the series it was all about the Hoffman family. As time passed Parker got his act together and made some balls to the wall decisions that were heavily questioned.

In the end Parker was mining more gold than the other two teams and in season 6. By the season's end, Parker managed to mine 3,372 ounces worth almost $3.5 million, while the Hoffmans mined 3,032 ounces worth just over $3 million.

In what will be one of the most memorable scenes of the series is when John made one of his numerous visits to Parker usually to see how he was doing or give some advice. On this occasion he was there when Parkers record $3.5 million take was weighed. He told Parker in front of his crew how proud he was and they embraced.

The $3.5 million figure topped his record season 5 when Parker mined 2,538 ounces totaling just under $3 million to the Hoffmans 1,349 ounces totaling just over $1.6 million. Parker's take was a big step up from the 34 oz (960 g) worth $55,000 he mined in his 2nd season.

During season 6 the Hoffmans challenged him referring to him as the kid. Parker was also challenged by Tony Beets who is recognized as a smart ass hard ass who is recognized as well as being the top gold miner in Alaska.

Beets became prominent in the show in season 5. Prior to that he was the person that the other miners would go to for advice and rent land he owned so they could mine while giving the Dutchman a percentage of their findings. This situation was a decisive factor in Parker maturing from a young man to a man.

Parker disagreed with the percentage Beets demanded and told Parker in so many caustic words that if he didn't like it he could fuck off. Fuck off is a very European term and fuck is one of Beets favorite words which is bleeped in the final edit. As Beet's mother informed him if a post series feature about him that many in the Netherlands that watch the show and refer to him a TONY BLEEP.

Without the guidance of his grandfather it is doubtful that Parker would have achieved his success by the time he turned 20. John guided Parker I how to deal with employees since Parker had numerous occasions of help resenting who he treated and talked to them. John informed him that without the support of employees YOU HAVE NOTHING.

Following this regular season final show they had a special show on John Schnabel and how he guided his grandson with his words of wisdom and relating his experiences. The love between the two was a beautiful thing to see. It was this relationship that made the show work. There was a bond that exemplifies what family love is.

John Schnabel died in his sleep on March 18, 2016. His hospitalization was documented in the post season special up until a month before he died. From the age of 75 to 96 he built Parker into a man.

In one witty scene John's son and his two grandchildren thanked him for financing Parkers venture to be a gold-miner. John pointed out with his quit wit and a chuckle that he was spending their inheritance.

On the Discovery Channel web site they have a section where viewers can comment on their thoughts of John Schnabel. Episodes can be downloaded and we highly recommend that the show featuring John Schnabel before he passed away is a must have and a keeper.

It is hard to imagine how this show will be as interesting without John Schnabel. As they say life goes on but with the Gold Rush series grandfather Schnabel is irreplaceable.

From my perspective this series evolved into a human interest series regarding human behavior, parenting, growth, maturity and the hard work it takes to be successful. It's a series that grows on you and a MUST SEE… OVERALL is a SERIES KEEPER.


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