Engineer, innovator, hockey player, tenor. Born March 10, 1921, in Craigmont, Ont. Died Dec. 9, 2011, in Calgary of old age, at 90.
Mac Baker’s formative years were spent in Timmins, Ont., where his father worked in the Hollinger gold mine. His entrepreneurial spirit, along with a slightly drooped right shoulder, came from a daily paper route (144 papers were a heavy load).
Endless hours on the backyard rink culminated in Mac playing hockey at a high level for local teams such as the Tuxis Rangers and, later on, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
During the war years, Mac attended the University of Toronto, graduating in engineering physics with the class of 1945. He was part of a small group that studied geophysics, a newer discipline at the time. In 1944, he married Betty Hill, a student at the Royal Conservatory.
His life’s work in oil exploration began in the Southern United States. After nearly four years away, he came to understand, like many Canadians abroad, how good we have it here. With the discovery of oil in Leduc, Alta., the time was right to come home.
Mac started Seismotech near Peace River, Alta., in partnership with the Seaman brothers (part-owners of the Calgary Flames). While he was living in Grimshaw, Alta., a huge fire erupted on the main street. Mac got a box of dynamite from work and strategically placed it in a burning structure. The resulting explosion contained the fire and saved the town.
In 1951, he moved to Calgary with his young family to be closer to his client base.
The success of Seismotech lay in innovative and pioneering techniques in oil and gas exploration. Mac’s best work was on the Arctic ice pack; the quality seismic data his firm produced there is still referred to nearly 40 years later. Steadfast in his gratitude and loyalty to staff, Mac made sure they were taken care of before he retired in 1983.
The stress and long hours of running a business took their toll on Mac’s marriage. In 1969, he married Trudy, a mother of five sons aged 6 to 16. So John, Shelley, Andy and Mike had to compete with Darryl, Kent, Scott, Blair and Duane for bathroom time. With a real Brady Bunch on their hands, grocery bills were high and privacy scarce for Mac and his new wife.
Mac’s love of barbershop music brought him to the Stampede City Chorus. Later, he helped form the Calgarians quartet and spent many happy years singing at shows and seniors homes throughout Western Canada.
In retirement, Mac and Trudy travelled and golfed. Summers were spent at their beloved Shuswap Lake, B.C., cottage. The place became a haven for barbershoppers. Four-part harmony and fiery sunsets served as the backdrops for corn roasts and campfires. Mac derived great pleasure from growing vegetables and making wine from the fruit trees in his yard. After a life of interesting complexity, a little simplicity was a good thing.
Andrew Baker is Mac’s son.