Shoemaker was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Muriel May (née Scott), a teacher, and George Estel Shoemaker, who worked in farming, business, teaching, and motion pictures. His parents were natives of Nebraska. During Gene’s childhood they moved between Los Angeles, New York City, Buffalo, New York and Wyoming, as George worked on a variety of jobs. George hated living in big cities, and was quite satisfied to take a job as director of education for a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in Wyoming. His wife soon found life in a remote cabin quite unsatisfactory. [a] They compromised, when Muriel got a teaching job in Buffalo. She could teach in the Buffalo School of Practice of the State Teachers College at Buffalo during the school year while keeping Gene with her, then both would return to Wyoming during the summers. Gene’s passion for studying rocks was ignited by the science education courses offered by the Buffalo Museum of Education. [b] He enrolled in the School of Practice in the fourth grade, and began collecting samples of minerals. Within a year, he was also taking high-school-level evening courses. The family moved back to Los Angeles in 1942, where Gene enrolled in Fairfax High School at the age of thirteen. He completed high school in three years. During that time he also played violin in the school orchestra, excelled in gymnastics, and got a summer job as an apprentice lapidary.