Big Bill Schwartz stands out at any gathering, being distinguished by his size, his flamboyant ties and a torrent of ideas. During the coming year, by virtue of his recent election to the position of president of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors' Association, Bill will be seen and heard at survey meetings across the land, and would like to give some slight warning of his coming.
Bill was born in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, in 1928, and raised on a farm near Hollinquist, Saskatchewan. He attended a country school with one room for eight grades, and ran through four teachers on his way through public school. He was boarded out in Prince Albert and Swift Current to attend high school and graduated as a 100-pound boy wonder. He attended the University of Saskatchewan, graduating in 1949 with a B.Sc. in engineering physics. He passed the preliminary DLS exams in 1947 and worked for the Legal Surveys Division of the federal Surveys and Mapping Branch as a summer student in 1947 under Dave Slessor on the Columbia River Project, in 1948 under Knox F. McCusker in the Yukon and in 1949 under Ralph Clark at Keno Hill.
Upon graduation, he was employed full time by Legal Surveys, was commissioned as a DLS in 1950, and was a party chief in the Yukon at the age of 21. He also qualified as an ALS later in 1950 and left the federal government to work for C.B.C. Donnelly, on a contract survey of the Northwest Territories -Alberta boundary.
From 1951 to 1954, Bill was in private practice, doing mineral claim surveys in the Yukon, He qualified as an SLS in 1953, and in 1954 was in charge of the SaskatchewanNorthwest Territories boundary survey.
In 1955 he returned to Legal Surveys and again worked on the survey of the Saskatchewan-Northwest Territories boundary until he made the mistake of stopping the tail rotor on a helicopter with his hand. This fast method of thumb amputation necessitated a trip out to hospital and Bill Blackie took over the boundary survey. In 1956, he worked in the Yukon with Bob McCurdy as his assistant. This was his final year with Legal Surveys. To clear up his office returns in a hurry, he had the memorable and outstanding assistance of Bob McCurdy, Ken Shipman and Tom Swanby (each of whom subsequently earned two commissions and a good deal of recognition).
In 1957 Bill was employed by the Saskatchewan Department of Natural Resources, as assistant to Controller of Surveys Abe Bereskin. In 1965, he returned to his studies at the University of New Brunswick, where he was also a part-time lecturer. He completed his Master's degree in surveying engineering in 1967, with a thesis on Plane Coordinate Calculations on the IBM 1620. In 1968, he succeeded Abe Bereskin as Controller of Surveys.
He was elected to the Council of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors' Association in 1970, was vice-president in 1971, and president in 1972. He was elected a provincial councillor in the Canadian Institute of Surveying in 1971.
In 1961, he married Constance E. Fletcher, who laments being a golf widow, but is convinced that her Bill can do anything. Bill is proud of his stepdaughter. Heather whose postings with the Department of External Affairs have included Ottawa, New Delhi and Cologne.
Bill's major hobbies are golf and computer programming. This latter subject is of such full-time interest to him that he has taken up the sale of computer programs, and is listed as a consultant in Olivetti's sales literature. With his taste for flamboyant ties, he is delighted by the extreme range of size color and pattern now available.
He is never slow to speak or reply. Ideas come tumbling out of him faster than objections can be brought to bear. As a member of a committee, he is liable to sound like the chairman, whether or not he actually is, by sheer force of words.
As a surveyor, his prowess is legendary; everyone who has worked with him has a story or two to tell. One of his proudest boasts has always been that he could find his way back to camp by traveling in a straight line, by day or by night, faster than his crew could arrive by following the cutline; as a rule, he was, indeed, home and eating supper when they arrived. Of course, the story they tell is of the time when he got lost, but it is the very rarity of that event that makes the story worth telling.
Yes, Bill Schwartz is a character, but a clever one. This should be a year that the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors will remember.
Source: Canadian Surveyor Magazine, Supplement, September 1972