From my 50 years as a geologist exploring for oil and gas I have been able to notice that dramatic changes in our exploration efforts and techniques, especially for independents, occur at approximately ten year intervals. In this issue I will tell you a little bit about me and how I came to Corpus Christi, and in subsequent installments I will try to give you my perceptions as I saw our industry evolve from 1958 to 2008.
When I graduated from Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology the Korean War was winding down, and our business was in one of its slumps. Out of our class of thirty-five geology graduates less than 15% received job offers from Major Companies, and I being in the exact middle of my class with an obligation to enter the Air Force in September found very little interest from potential employers. In other words I couldn’t get a job in the oil industry. I actually wasn’t called up until November 6th, but that was too late.
While doing my tour in the Air Force and becoming a fighter pilot, President Eisenhower ended the Korean War. We tigers, who were looking forward to air-to-air combat in the supersonic F-86s against the Russian Mig-15s were offered the option of signing up for three more years or taking a desk job at some Air Force Base in the Continental United States. I was very disappointed, but I did not feel that I could wait three more years to see if I could realize my dream of becoming a petroleum geologist. I learned that a job was open at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where 10 jet fighters were available for our use at any time we needed a break and to insure that we kept up our flying skills. This was only 150 miles from where my fiancée, Carolyn, was living, so my choice was pretty obvious.
In the Summer of 1956, when my three year tour of duty with the Air Force was coming to an end, the Air Force was heavily lobbing their fighter Pilots with College Degrees to stay on with them. I had to tell my commanding officer that I started out to be a petroleum geologist and that I had to find out if I could become one, but if it didn’t work out I’d be back to see him. Little did I realize that sputnik was just a year away, and the United States would be needing a geologist to go to the moon. As a rated jet pilot with a degree in geology, who knows I might have been chosen to become an Astronaut.
By now I have a wife and new baby girl, born on July 4, 1956, and no job prospects, so I made a trip back to the Texas A&M Geology Department to see what chances I had to pursue my life’s goal.
I met with Mr. Shirly Lynch, head of the department, who knew me from my undergraduate days. His first words to me were “come back here and get a Master’s Degree and I’ll get you a job that pays $100.00 more a month than you can get with a Bachelors Degree. I explained my family situation, and that I had no means of support except some bonds I had purchased while in the Air Force and that I was getting out in November and couldn’t get the GI bill money until I was fully enrolled. No problem, Mr. Lynch informed me– he would let me take seven hours, and since I would be making up for the first half of the semester he would count it as a full load and get approval for me to start getting paid in November. On November 8th I was back in college taking courses in petroleum geology and planning my thesis.
The job market in our industry was pretty good in 1956 probably due to uncertainties in the Middle East caused by the Suez Canal crisis, so we were pretty enthused. My course work went well, and in the summer of 1957 I worked on my thesis, a mapping project in Grimes County involving the Jackson and Catahoula formations that outcropped in the map area. Determined to finish up by the end of the fall semester (February 1958), I worked diligently – walking the creeks, killing snakes and constantly being chewed on by seed ticks, chiggers and every bug you could imagine. By September my mapping was complete and Carolyn, then 7 months pregnant with our second child sat on a pillow and typed three drafts of my thesis on a portable Remington typewriter with three carbons.
By fall of 1957 the job market was starting to get a bit shaky, but with the end of my degree in sight I was able to interview a number of oil companies and my first offer came from The Texas Company, later to become Texaco, Inc. The salary of $550.00 per month sounded huge, and they wanted me in Corpus Christi to work the Jackson and Yegua strandline trends due to the mapping of these formations that I did for my thesis. It didn’t take us long to make up our minds to accept, but two weeks later I did receive an offer from Exxon to work in Oklahoma for a slightly higher salary. I decided that I had already made a commitment and would not go back on my word. Incidentally my classmates who finished in May had a very difficult time finding jobs in the Oil Industry.
In February 1958 after completing all post graduate studies and an accepted thesis in only 14 months, I received my Masters Degree in Geology. So, with a job as Junior Geologist with the Texas Company, Carolyn and our two daughters’ ages 2 months and a year and a half, headed for Corpus Christi where we stayed and hoped that I could succeed as a geologist.
In the next issue I will tell you more about my perceptions of exploration techniques and conditions in the industry as I started my lifelong career.