Last November 23, 1998's past president's luncheon, held at the Palliser Hotel, was a far cry from earlier meetings. For starters, a few past presidents have left town. Francis Hale CSEG president '60 now hails from Tucson, H.J. Kidder CSEG '59 from Dallas and Dennis O'Brien CSEG '79 from Denver. And Victoria has since lured Earle Mahaffy CSEG '77.
The brainchild for this annual event is John Harding CSEG 74, who claims to have attended everyone of the luncheons. "The early meetings had no agenda," recalls Harding. "And everybody paid for the total bill." The locations have included The 400 Club, Professional Club and Petroleum Club.
Over the years, the meetings have become more formal, notes Harding, "The idea to start with now is that we have an incoming president who gives the plan for the coming year, while the present president talks about what's happened in the year and the past president chairs the meeting."
Ralph Lundberg CSEG '88, who worked under the supervision of John Harding in 1960, recalls his first encounters with the past president's luncheon. In 1987, he was CSEG's vice-president when he got saddled with the liaison between the CSEG and CSPG for the joint Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin Atlas project. "It was a very challenging job. As things got rolling, we had Thursday meetings that lasted three to four hours after work and all we could do is monitor what ten editors had done in a week," says Lundberg. Due to the impact of this project, John Boyd CSEG'86 and Bob Comber CSEG'87 decided that the vice president should be invited to the past president's luncheon.
In 1991, Lundberg remembers when the past presidents' luncheon meeting took another turn, when Brian Russell CSEG '91 arrived considerably late, "Somebody suggested that we introduce ourselves and we spoke for a couple of minutes while waiting. Being creatures of habit, we start off the luncheons this way, but it got excessive until Barry Korchinksi started to having much more disciplined meetings."
This past year's meeting was organized with just ten days notice (credit goes to Heather Payne, for her tireless efforts), says Lundberg, "If we'd ever forget the past president's luncheon, we'd probably organize it amongst ourselves and talk about who wasn't present."
Like Lundberg, Peter Savage, CSEG'62, always looks forward to attending the past president's luncheon. Nowadays, his energies are being devoted to the arts world - with the Petroleum Historical Society, serving as past chair of the board of the Nickle Arts Museum and very active with the Allied Arts Foundation Board. Still, Savage notes with pride about the CSEG, "The science has changed, but the people are still very nice, very enthusiastic and very willing to work...There's just always been a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in the organization."
Both Savage and Peter Bediz CSEG '61 recalls with fondness some of the early technical meetings which occurred at Penley's Dance Hall, or "any place that was either cheap or free" in Calgary on weekday nights. Some 30 to 60 persons may have attended and like the past president's luncheon, the technical meetings have transcended from modest beginnings.
Bediz who turned 85 years last month, and still enjoys reading technical papers, says of the CSEG's earlier technical meetings, "After the papers at the evening meetings, we had lots of time. We just talked and talked...The group was relatively small, no more technical talk, just friendly conversation and in that environment, we just shot the bull."
It was early 1950 when Bediz was sent to work in Calgary on behalf of Century Geophysical from Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a three month assignment without his family. Back then, Amoco had one employee and the largest oil company around with five or six persons was Hudson's Bay Oil and Gas. When Bediz hadn't heard from his employer, he sent them a facetious letter, "I haven't heard from you guys for a long time. I'm concerned about your health. "
When his employer found out he enjoyed working in Calgary, they decided to keep him here permanently. "It was truly challenging work. On average, there was only one hole per township," says Bediz. But it's the Alberta entrepreneurial spirit that really drew Bediz to the Canadian oil patch. "It was a younger bunch of geophysicists and they had much more open minds about new ideas...you came up with a new idea and whether it was foolish or not, you could sit down and talk with other geophysicists and geologists. And quite frankly, in those days, as seismologists, we were just guessing."
Of course, doing business back then was different, too. "There was a tremendous amount of respect, understanding and faith with each other, and the handshake agreement we lived up to. Nowadays, they have agreements 1500 pages long and they still end up in the courthouse."
Bediz's most unforgettable meeting was when Norman Becker, a seismic contractor who griped about his measly wages volunteered to speak. "We were liberal, we let him talk," recalls Bediz. "But he got up there, and was introduced to the group...and he froze for about five to eight minutes and didn't say anything. Then he said, 'you guys don't pay us enough'."
So it seems, the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. But one thing is for certain; this year's luncheon will be equally interesting. After all, Rob Stewart CSEG '97 will have completed his stint as SEG distinguished lecturer (currently on a six-month global tour) and Brian Russell CSEG '91 will certainly have a few tales to share about being SEG's president for 1998-1999.