Involvement in the Oil Industry and Recollections
Paul's involvement in the drilling business started with water wells in the late twenties. Paul and his brother drilled water wells all over the country. All the way from Hardisty to Marwayne and into Saskatchewan. They were quite popular as water well drillers, because they worked 24 hours a day until the well was completed.
A man by the name of O. C. Yates looked them up and followed them around quite a bit. He was trying to put together a formation structure. With his work, eventually the Lloydminster Gas Company was formed. They purchased an old, used cable tool rig that was in the vicinity and hired Bill Scutchings. Bill Scutchings then hired Paul, Ed Gantertin and Roy Hartling to help build the derrick which stood on the north end, around the exhibition grounds. Paul recalls that one of the men worked on something else for awhile when the derrick got a little high for him. Paul helped Charlie Mills rig up the old cable tool rig they had purchased and the well spudded in. This was where he first got to know Charlie Mills. Paul drilled the water well to provide water for the steam boiler and he took stock in the Lloydminster Gas Company in lieu of cash. When the well came in, they paid him two to one for the original price. He didn't have a dependent family living in Lloydminster so he was able to work for shares, but some of the others were getting a dollar a day to buy groceries.
He recalls that local people were financing the Lloydminster Gas Company and the drilling of Lloydminster No. 1. Men like Jack Ranger and Charlie Elliott were scraping up money to get another carload of coal. They were supposedly on their last carload of coal when they hit gas. Those were touchy times.
Paul remembers when they found gas at Lloydminster's first well. With that things leveled off, gas was piped into the town, which he recalls had a population of under 2,000 at that time. People then went their various ways. Paul drifted away from Lloydminster and back to Turner Valley and Taber, Alberta.
There was one incident with Charlie Mills, he said he must mention, which may have been the most beneficial in his whole life. When they were rigging up for the Discovery gas well they had to go to Dina, where he had previously drilled a couple of wells for Charlie Mills. They had to go to get a different drill bit. He's not sure if it was on loan or borrowed without permission. Whitey Wilson, who was in charge of the tools at Dina, was away and they borrowed the bit. They put it on the back bumper of Charlie Mills' old Diana car. It was pretty heavy and it made the front end pretty light and it was hard to steer. With all the weight on the car they blew a tire on Charlie's car. That was before the time of spare tires. You took the tire off the wheel, got out your patches, cut a patch, put some paste on, partially dried it, stuck it on and tried to put it all back together. The temperature that night was 60 degrees below zero with some snow and a heavy wind blowing. Paul went into the bushes and tested the willows until he found the dead ones. He picked up an armful, brought them back, dipped them into the gas tank and then started a fire. Charlie got his hands warmed and they got the tire fixed eventually and proceeded back into Lloydminster. They arrived at 6:00 in the morning. A new restaurant had just opened and they were able to get coffee and breakfast. They had been out in the storm for a good nine hours. Paul heard later that this story had been repeated by Charlie Mills to some of his friends. He had made up his mind that he would get Paul to run the rigs for him. Paul thinks it was a very important thing that he did, but it was for their own salvation.
It was at Dina that Paul had also met Stuart Wright. Paul was the first person to see the Sparky Sands. Charlie Mills had contracted to drill a well to a certain depth and they had reached the contract depth. They were waiting for the electrolog that was coming in the morning. When the electrolog people came, they pulled the drill pipe out of the well. They had the core barrel which Paul insisted they use. The core barrel was on the bottom and to clean out all the debris and make sure they were completely to bottom, they cored an extra foot or foot and a half. While Schlumberger was getting ready to run the electrolog Paul opened up the core barrel and found clean, saturated oil sand. He called Charlie Mills and told him, they better core some more. The contractors were ready so they went ahead and logged the well and nothing exciting turned up above that, so they went ahead and put the core barrel back in and continued to core into what is now known as the Sparky Sands. He met Dr. Edmunds from the University of Saskatchewan. Professor Edmunds wanted to call it the Guthrie Sands, but some other engineers in the field with Barlow Drilling and other companies were drilling into the same field, so they settled for the name of the original well where the sand was found Sparky No. 1. Sparky No. 1 was located four miles west and a couple miles south of Highway 16.
Professor Edmunds and Paul Guthrie were good friends and kind of pioneered together. Paul calls Charlie Mills a prince. He thinks the hotel Prince Charles was named for that reason.
In Taber he worked for Cantex drilling. He had a similar experience in Taber to that he had in Lloydminster when they found the Sparky Sands.
It was in Turner Valley that Paul met and married Helen Archibald. When he married Helen they moved into their one room shack in Longview on the outskirts of Turner Valley. Two weeks after they were married, an old Diana car drove into their yard and there was Charlie Mills. He talked Paul into pushing rigs for Northern Development Company. He looks back at this as another turning point - he's had a lot of good luck.
Paul was pushing the rig for Northern Development when they drilled the first producing well in the Devonian field in the Devon area.
He comments that he was always over his head and he was ready to listen and ask questions. It you can listen well, you can get by pretty well. In his opinion, some people don't listen enough.
He met some very good men over the years and some who he showed their first rotary drilling equipment. Len Storvold, Adolph Soyak, Walter Miller, his sons Carl and Gerald Guthrie. Carl started working on the oil rigs as a young man. While Paul was a field superintendent for Northern Development in the Lloydminster area, Carl was still going to school but worked on the rigs during the summers of 1944 to 1946. Carl later worked with Northern Development for some time. Lloyd McLaren was the office manager and Carl was the drilling superintendent. Carl and Lloyd later formed Guthrie-McLaren Drilling.
Len, Adolph and Walter became some of Alberta's and Canada's top rated men in the oilpatch. Paul commented that they were all learning as they went.
Paul remembers a problem they had in the Leduc field. A number of contractors moved in, all the Turner Valley contractors, people from the United States. The other companies were paying $1.00 a day and hiring his employees away from him. They didn't get the three men he mentioned, they stayed with him and they together made quite a bit of pretty good history.
He met a man by the name of J. W. Millar. They drilled a test well for him in Saskatchewan trying to find gas for his salt plant. When the oil boom was going, he had a chance to buy a used drilling rig that Imperial Oil was laying off. He needed money, so he went to J. W.Millar and mortgaged the house that he owned in Lloydminster to get money to start Paul Guthrie Development. Lloyd came to work for Paul Guthrie Development. Both Paul's sons became drillers for Paul Guthrie Development. They went through some tough times with Paul Guthrie Development. There were some hungry days.
Husky hired Paul Guthrie Development to drill some of their wells and he met Glenn Neilson. Paul Guthrie eventually became a director for Mr. Neilson's company. He commented that he and Bill Williams were great friends and often compared notes. They used to compete on drilling wells to see who could reach their final point the quickest.
He remembers Russell Shaw being a prominent man in the oilpatch. Paul drilled some wells for his company.
Lloyd McLaren's father, Charlie, was a good friend and a big help to Paul in his earlier days. He was older and gave Paul confidence. They used to discuss several things.
Husky Oil eventually bought Paul Guthrie Development and he took back a couple of drilling rigs instead of money. These rigs turned into Guthrie-McLaren Drilling.
He mentioned that it was hard to leave Lloydminster, as they had a lot of good friends here.
In 1957 Guthrie - McLaren Drilling started. They did work in Alberta, Saskatchewan, NWT , Eastern Canada and Texas, pretty well all over. It operated from 1957 to 1978. Lloyd gives full credit for the development of Guthrie - McLaren to Paul Guthrie. Paul found when he went into the office everyday, there were a bunch of decisions to be made, so he had to get out of there and leave them to make their own decisions, which turned out well. They did very well. They asked advice once in a while and were willing to listen.