• Born in Calgary,
Alberta on October 17th,
raised on a farm in the Delia area.
• Completed high school in
took Aeronautical Technical Engineering training in Calgary.
• RCAF pilot 1941-1946
in Canada, Great Britain, North Africa and Middle East.
• Completed Civil Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan
• Worked for Phillips, Hamilton and Associates from
• Articled to Geoffrey C. Hamilton from
June 23, 1952 to
October 22, 1956.
• Received ALS Commission (#224) on October 24,
• Received SLS commission in
• Worked for and was partner at W.D. Usher & Assoc. Ltd. From
• Worked for Maverick Engineering, Texas from
then fully retired.
• Became an honorary life member of the ALSA January 29,
• Was an active member of the ALSA in excess of 38 years and served on
numerous committees from
in addition to being vice-president, president and past president from
• Surveying experience in Alberta (1949
– 1984) involved
every type of surveying that was done, with the exception of satellite
and related hi-tech work.
Al Edwards’ real
introduction to surveying was working for Phillips, Stewart and Phillips
(a predecessor of Phillips Hamilton and Associates then predecessor of
current Hamilton and Olsen) out of Saskatoon. He worked with
Buck Olsen on the Fort Qu’Appelle Indian
Reserve, learning about laying out section boundaries. Later, he was
transferred to Edmonton and worked in northern Alberta setting control
for seismic surveys. After a few years, he and various others decided to
leave Phillips Hamilton. Al joined up with Dave
Usher and later became co-owner of the firm W.D. Usher and
Al served on the
ALSA Council from 1960
to 1965 as
councillor then took the president route. It appeared that
professionalism and ethics were a problem for a few members during his
time as president. In his presidential address, to the membership at the
1964 AGM, he
stated “ethics is a constant problem before us today” and “borderline
ethics are not good enough.” It appeared that some were not following
the “tariff of minimum fees” and were undercutting or canvassing other
surveyor’s clients. Interesting times!
My first meeting
with Al was in 1967
when I joined the firm of W.D. Usher and Associates Ltd. He was one of
my mentors that convinced me to enhance my surveying career by taking
Survey Technology at NAIT then go after my commission to become an ALS.
Al was instrumental in tutoring many students, in getting them through
their exams, over his years of practice. He remarked, in his interview
with Les Frederick, ALS, “After a while
I thought...we are training a whole bunch of competition, cause they are
going to leave the firm and set up an office in competition to us.” This
was true as many new corporations were spawned from Usher and
Associates. Al was always ready to share his expertise and thoughts in
helping his staff to advance in the profession.
We had a great
group of partners in the late seventies and early eighties but things
did take a turn for the worse, economically, for our firm. Some of us,
including Al, went our separate ways. One of our partners,
Roger Leeman, ALS summed up our thoughts
quite well with his comments: “A couple of things I will always remember
about Al: he was always so calm, cool and collected—nothing ever upset
him—probably why he lived to be 90. The other thing I remember is his
propensity to give quotes over the phone without really taking the time
to do a proper estimate. I recall that the rest of us used to shudder
whenever this happened.”
Al always wanted
to please and do his share; sometimes working off the top of the pile
too much, but was always committed to the company and his profession.
I would like to
thank God for giving all of us (fellow ALSs, former partners, all the
employees that worked with him, his many friends and family) the
opportunity to know Al. I would also ask Him to bless and give comfort
to Al`s family. Amen.
Don George, ALS (Ret)
A Conversation with Al Edwards
interviewed Al Edwards as part of the Historical &
Biographical Committee’s initiative to capture biographies of prominent
Alberta Land Surveyors.
When I got
into university, first year Calculus was a breeze. The second year, they
darn near lost me. But actually, my worse subject in university was
Physics because I never took Physics in school. We didn’t have enough
people to take it, so we didn’t teach it. When I came back after the
War, in order to get into university, I had to take a refresher. I went
to Calgary and took a refresher at SAIT for about six months—I can’t
remember how long for— it was right through the winter anyway and I took
Algebra, Trigonometry, Chemistry and Physics. I got 98% in Trigonometry,
89% in Algebra; I think about 78% in Chemistry and 59% in Physics. But
it was good enough to get me in anyway.
What was your first
introduction to surveying?
After my second
year at university. After the first year, I went travelling because I
hadn’t done any done travelling except during the War and that’s not
exactly called vacation. After the second year, I worked for the City of
Saskatoon and after the third year, I worked with Phillips, Stewart and
Phillips which was the predecessor of Phillips, Hamilton which was the
predecessor of Hamilton & Olsen. So, I worked with them in the summer of
’49. I never finished university because I ran out of money and the
government was giving us the huge sum of $104 a month. So I figured that
I had to stay out and work a couple years, make some money and go back
and finish. Well, then I got on with (Buck Olsen
was with the same firm) we actually subdivided a bunch of Indian
reserves down at Fort Qu’Appelle in Saskatchewan. So then, when I
decided I had to take some time off from university, they offered me a
How did you get to go to the University of Saskatchewan?
That was a
strange, strange thing. I wanted to sort of get into a field which was
kind of unique. I had an interview in Calgary at SAIT, I can’t remember
who he was or what he was, he said that ceramic engineering was the
coming thing but the only place you could get it in Canada was in
Saskatoon. So, I decided to go there. So, I had another interview after
I got there, got settled in, and the guy said the only place for
employment for ceramic engineering is Medicine Hat, Alberta and
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So, I did a quick switch to civil.
What is ceramic
Actually, it might
not have been a bad field because you make tiles and stuff like that but
it sort of moved into the plastic/steel in the mid ‘50s. Ceramic and
plastics are blended altogether and plastics have been a big thing. That
was the story of that – so, I went to work with Phillips, Stewart and
Phillips in January 1951 and they moved me to Edmonton with Phillips,
Hamilton. At that time, they were really hustling pretty darn well. The
first job I had here was the Belgravia subdivision in Edmonton. That was
right on the periphery; today it’s almost downtown.
In your first
introduction to surveying in your second year, what did you do? City
Oh yeah—it was
doing curb layouts and mostly all grade work—street construction. We
took our equipment, got on the streetcar and went wherever we had to go.
It seems crazy, but that’s the way it was—no vehicles. I realized
afterwards that the City of Saskatoon was really quite far behind in
procedures and whatever they were doing—just barely enough to get by on.
That had to be a big job and a big responsibility because they were
building them just like crazy. He was a pretty good guy. He carried out
an extensive interview before he hired you. He wanted to know how you
were doing in university and this sort of thing. I said that I was not a
top student. He said that with the City, he needed guys who could work
through the summer and maybe miss the first week or two of university
because the summer’s work was not finished. He said that they didn’t
want highly qualified academics because they are not good workers. So,
anyway, I got the job. I only worked the one summer with them actually.
I figured there was no beneficial experience in that. But, working with
Buck Olsen and guys down in Fort Qu’Appelle, that was an experience
because we had ravines there to cross like you wouldn’t believe. We’d
hitch two chains together and stretch them up tight and figure out the
sag. It was easier than cutting a whole bunch of bloody bush.
Was that your
first experience with the actual land system?
Oh yeah, it was,
definitely. There was Gus Petersen—young kid— God, good worker and
sharp. He went on, he got through university and I don’t know what he’s
doing now. I think probably Buck kept in
touch with him because he worked right with him all the time. We had a
pretty good time down there. About the only experience that I remember
was that we had a Norwegian cook. She was an elderly lady, we called her
Ma, and we’d ask her, “What are we having for dinner.” “Roast beef and
wegtables.” In the middle of August or early August, I guess it was, the
weather one day was really sour. She says, “I know what’s going to
happen. We’re going to have one of those bad hail storms.” Of course,
Buck Olsen, being from Prince Albert, he’d
hardly ever seen hail. So he was needling her like the dickens. Well,
believe you me, that night the vehicles were just pounded. It was like
somebody took a hammer and beat the hell out of them. It was a really
vicious hail storm. We were living down in an old Indian reserve. It
took the windows out of the building and everything. She says, “Now,
Mr. Olsen, you realize what a hail storm is?”