Heavy Oil Science Centre - Overburden

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Charlie Coulter
Oilman of the Year - 1996

Involvement in Oil Industry

coulter.jpg (10339 bytes)

Charlie got his start in the oil business when he ran into Whitey Wilson on the street one day. Whitey asked Charlie if he would like to come to work for him. Charlie recalls telling him "not really" but since he needed a job he said "yes". He helped set up a rig at Borradaile, just out of Vermilion, and years later he was also involved in tearing it down. He then was hired by Jim Kirk and went to work for the gas company in Vermilion.

Charlie remembers staying at the Brunswick Hotel in Vermilion. Whitey Wilson kicked down the door before Charlie had a chance to answer it and said "come to Milk River", so he worked there for awhile. Then they dismantled the rig and moved it to a site eight miles west of Lloydminster.

In the spring of 1942 he started to build the refinery at Borradaile. They worked most of the summer and winter. After that, C. H. Whithers got Charlie to start a wild cat well (going outside a proven reserve into unknown territory) at Vera, Saskatchewan. Charlie also worked at the refinery in Wainwright before Husky took it over.

He worked with Bill Scutchings building wooden derricks. He remembers the six inch spikes they used when building the derricks. He recalls that often when the drilling was finished they knocked the derricks down. Sometimes they skidded them away if the next drilling location was nearby.

He worked for John Howes at the Excelsior Refinery. He lived at Borradaile and caught rides to Lloydminster.

In 1946, Bill Williams hired him to help build the Husky refinery. Bill Williams and Shortie Willard were the tool-pushes who built the refinery. He worked for Husky with Fred Wallace. Then he got involved in trucking and pumping. Around 1948, he bought a 1/2 ton truck to transport men from town out to the rigs. In 1951, he bought a three ton truck and worked in the oilfield. At one point he had four trucks. He also worked in the oilfields in Coleville and Swift Current. He was in the trucking business from 1951-1960. After the big trucks, he started a hot-shot service, picking up things in town and delivering them out to the rigs. For twenty years he went all over Alberta and as far as Virden, Manitoba.

Charlie spent 53 years in the oilfield.


Mini-Derrick built by Charlie Coulter

At one point, Charlie look care of the tools at the Husky Refinery and stayed in a 6' X l0' green shack on the site.

He remembers one trip to Lac La Biche when his answering service got the directions mixed up. He ended up hearing the rigs and that's how he got to where he should be.


Miniature oil derrick Charlie Coulter and Milo Sproull built for Canada's Centennial in 1967.

Charlie always had a desire to build a miniature oil derrick, so he went to talk to Milo Sproull. This became their Centennial l[1967] project. Charlie then went to the drafting department at Nelson Lumber to get help with the plans. Charlie and Milo spent many hours working on the rig in the evenings. Milo cut and welded and Charlie polished. When the Char-Mil Rig No. 1-9-6-7 was completed it was erected on the front lawn at Charlie's house. They later added an oil tank and a mud tank to the project.

Numerous visitors stopped by over the years to see the rig.