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Growing up in Claremont, Walter was the second youngest of eight children, along with four sisters and three brothers. He was educated the Claremont Public School and then at West Toronto High School. He attended the University of Toronto where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics in 1902. Finally, in 1904, Walter earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Toronto School of Applied Science. As a result, Walter was now a qualified Dominion Land Surveyor (D.L.S.) and an Alberta Land Surveyor (A.L.S.)
In the summers of 1902-1905, Walter worked on survey crews to gain experience. He was first an assistant to surveyors and eventually became an inspector of surveys. In 1906, once he obtained his D.L.S. certification, Walter was awarded his own survey contracts. This year he also married Lillian Dryden, whom he had met while attending university in Toronto.