R. McCutcheon

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Bob McCutcheon, ALS
Known for ALSA President (1950, 1953), Honorary Life Member (1975)

Bob McCutcheon was born in Bridgeport Connecticut, on March 30, 1909, to an Irish father and a Scottish mother, who immigrated to the United States one year previously.

The family moved to Calgary in 1912, where his father resumed his occupation as a carpenter. The McCutcheon family lived, for the most part, on the "North Hill" where Bob and his younger sister, Florrie, received their secondary educations at what was then the Balmoral High School on 16th Avenue North, west of Centre Street (now Crescent Heights Junior High).

Bob tells of his decision to leave high school in mid-term grade ten, to seek his fortune. After several weeks spent at various menial jobs (delivering groceries on a bicycle for example), he saw the error of his ways and decided to return to school in time to write the Easter exams to be set for the grade, from which he departed some months previously.

Bob succeeded in convincing the principal at that time, none other than Mr. William Aberhardt, that he would be able to bridge the gap by working day and night to catch up. He not only succeeded in catching up, but passed all of the examinations with better than average grades. Bob still maintains the experience served him well, by proving to himself that results realized in any endeavour are in direct proportion to the amount of effort applied.

Soon after graduating from high school, Bob went to work for Mr. D.T. Townsend, DLS, ALS, the CPR's surveyor for their Calgary division. Since the railway owned the areas now occupied by such districts as upper Mount Royal, Scarborough and Sunalta, Mr. Townsend performed these subdivision surveys. In time, Bob articled to Mr. Townsend, receiving his DLS commission in 1939 and, subsequently, his ALS commission on May 13, 1940.

It was during the years when Bob was working toward his professional status as a land surveyor that he and Margaret McNeil were married in February of 1934. He still speaks of the support and encouragement which he received from Margaret during those months when he was preparing for his examinations. To Bob's great sorrow, then and still, he lost Margaret in January 1979.

Bob enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 and served as a navigation instructor. He was posted overseas in 1942 and received an honorable discharge in 1945. Following a brief period of employment with California Standard, he entered into private practice in 1946.

In 1947, he began his private practice operating from his home, and then moved to an upstairs office over what was then a bank on the north-east corner of 8th Avenue and 1st Street East. Sometime later, he moved to space above Hall Hardware at 115A 8th Avenue East (presently the north-west corner of the Convention Centre).

These were the days when office windows could be opened to fresh air, and the drafting department occupied the two front rooms facing 8th Avenue with a northern exposure to natural light for the tables. The old building was a pleasant place to work in, as I remember, during the few times when Bob would put up with my laborious drafting. Mr. Arthur Fleet, Bob's senior draftsman, deserves mention at this point.

An ex CPR man himself, Mr. Fleet's special expertise lay in subdivision layouts and their attendant calculations, all of which were done with logarithms. In my opinion, (biased as it may be), Mr. Fleet's plans represent as fine an example of free-hand drafting as there is to be found in either of the two Alberta Land Titles Offices.

Bob's last move was to the 300 Block on 7th Avenue West, over Campbell Floral (now part of the Devonian Gardens). He chose this location primarily because Alberta Drafting was next door, and like most survey companies of the day, we did not have plan reproduction facilities. Other good features of this location were its proximity to the Land Titles Office, and its ideal vantage point from which to watch the Stampede Parade!

Bob sold the business in 1965 to five of his employees when he retired for the first time and the operation moved to new quarters in 1969.

During the years 1947 to 1965, Bob's clients included the majors in the oil and gas industry, in the utility companies, and in the land developers. His many field plans will attest to the variety of surveys he performed, yet he is perhaps best known for his work in property surveys within the City of Calgary. These are still recognized as a reliable base from which lost survey evidence can be replaced, providing of course, his marks are still in place.

After his "retirement," Bob maintained a keen interest in the profession, working with several surveyors in Calgary to whom he would offer assistance if requested.

Since 1967 he had been associated with Ley Harris, Darryl Tronnes and Ray MacDonald, and had retired a number of times in the interim.

Bob's record with the Alberta Land Surveyors' Association speaks for itself. He served as president on two occasions, 1950 and 1952, and during which time was intrumental, along with Mr. Geoff Hamilton and Mr. Buck Olsen, in dissuading the government of the day, and in particular the Honourable C.E. Gerhart, then the provincial secretary responsible for the various professional acts, from its intention to remove, or at least reduce, the statutory powers of professional associations regarding the admission of new members. Mr. Gerhart's proposal was to substitute a system of government licensing which, fortunately for our profession, did not materialize.

Bob was admitted as a life member of the Alberta Land Surveyors' Association on May 13, 1975 following thirty-five years of active membership.

During the late 40s and early 50s there were only half a dozen surveyors practicing in Calgary, a far cry from the present day. The building boom was in its embryonic stages, and Bob became an acknowledged expert in downtown surveys. He managed to acquire A.P. Patrick's field notes, which proved to be of enormous assistance.

His was a general type of practice and the surveyors under his tutelage were exposed to a wealth of varied experience, from demanding boundary surveys on 8th Avenue to well sites in Zama Lake and Fort McMurray.

Bob McCutcheon passed away March 14, 2004 at the age of 94.

Armstrong MacCrimmon, ALS (Hon Life)