Joe grew up on a farm near Viking, Alberta. He loved playing hockey and baseball as a youth and carried that on in later years in curling and golf.
Joe first got involved in the oil business when he was eighteen years old. He worked as a roughneck on a cabletool rig in Turner Valley in the early ‘30s. It was in Turner Valley that he got to know Charlie Mills. In 1931, he delivered telephone books in Edmonton for 25 cents per book. He also spent five years driving a bus in the thirties.
Joe married Mardy Hardy in 1939 and shortly afterwards came to Lloydminster. The Excelsior Refinery was being built and Joe spent two weeks there welding tanks. From there he went on to start Hoskins & Gallagher machine shop, with Cliff Hoskins. The shop was located where the Atrium Centre now stands. They operated the shop for about ten years before selling to Slim Thorpe, Dave McCauley and an engineer by the name of Richardson. The shop became Universal Industries. At that time, Dave McCauley also had a shop in Mannville.
After a couple years in Edmonton, Joe returned and spent four years operating a Chrysler dealership (Blythe-Gallagher Motors) in Lloydminster. He also opened the first two coin laundromats in Lloydminster in the early 1960's. Clare Ross, Jack Ross and Joe started Border Trucking in 1967. Their shop was located four miles south of town across from the Ross & Nygren pump shop. Initially they were involved in moving rigs and then they got pressure trucks. Border Trucking put the first pressure truck in operation and brought in the first foam unit in Canada. Joe was a partner in Border Trucking until retirement.
Joe was always active in the community. He was a member of the Lloydminster Fire Department for 45 years, a long time member of the Oilfield Technical Society, and a member of numerous curling and golf clubs.
Recollections: (collected about 1995)
In the early days there were no safety regulations and no steel toe boots. He recalls in those days, you weren’t an oilman unless you had cowboy boots.
He remembers moving rigs with trucks and trailers which barely had any brakes. There was no concern about weight. They just loaded everything on and hoped they got to where they were going.
Joe remembers when he and Cliff Hoskins traded vehicles with Charlie Mills, their 1/4 ton Ford truck for Charlie’s Diana-Moon car. Charlie wanted something he could haul oil in. Joe recalls that the car had an air ball for a footfeed. Later, Charlie Mills had a three ton truck which was the first winch truck that Joe remembers seeing.
When asked if he had photos, he commented that "none of us had cameras." He doesn’t think people were too proud of their equipment, "maybe that's why they didn’t take pictures."
In a discussion about the early days, Joe and Carl Nygren commented that Stuart Wright figured everything out on a slide rule - he was involved with the wells and refinery at Dina.
The old oil storage tanks were on stands, so the oil would run into the trucks - they didn’t have any pumps.
Joe remembers the promoters who were here in the early days. Russell Shaw, who later became the mayor of Lloydminster. Lloyd Clinch, who had wells close to their shops. There were also lots of promoters from out of town.
When it came to exploration, they drilled test wells, but they didn’t have any way of knowing how much oil was there. He believes that in some wells there likely was oil, but the people just didn’t know how to get it.
Joe remembers that during the 40’s there was an area north of the tracks where workers lived in skid shacks. As might be expected, it was not one of the quieter neighbourhoods in Lloydminster.
In an interview with Frank Spencer, it was mentioned that Hoskins & Gallagher built one of the first steel derricks for Commonwealth in the late 40’s - early 50’s.
Joe recalls that his first house on 42 Street had a prepay natural gas meter. These were meters where the gas was supplied according to the amount of money you put in the meter. He remembers that Charlie Mills worked for the Lloydminster Gas Company at that time and he would come around and collect the quarters from the meters.