Reader Feedback: Fond Memories
Dan’s [Dan Govero, PLS] letter brought back some ancient memories! My first surveying job after graduating from high school and joining the 880th Engineering Heavy Construction Battalion of the Missouri National Guard in the 1950’s was as a rodman in a six-man Missouri Highway Department survey party mapping culvert and bridge design crossings for Interstate Highway I-270.
Following that experience I moved on to a City of St. Louis private surveying and engineering firm, which ran five three-man survey parties and one four-man party.
I was fortunate to be assigned to Howard Hahn’s (Missouri RLS) four-man city survey party starting as a rear chainman. As a result of Howard’s mentoring and encouragement, I was able to advance from rear chainman to head chainman to instrumentman within six months.
The field equipment of the 1950’s included a 20-second Berger transit (rigid legs only!), 100 feet. Lufkin steel box tape, dumpy level, Philadelphia level rod, and 8.5-by-11-inch grid paper on a clipboard for survey notes. Our survey party experienced the excitement of working in urban traffic with no safety vests, traffic cones, warning signs or handheld radios. Computations were made using log tables or natural trig tables and hand recorded calculations (without the benefit of any kind of mechanical calculator!) on grid paper.
This was the start of my 45-year career in land surveying, mapping and planning. Adding courses from the U.S. Army Ft. Belvoir Engineer School and a diploma in surveying, mapping and architectural engineering from International Correspondence School, along with numerous seminars and workshops, enabled me to gain the necessary educational background to pass the fundamental and state-specific registration examinations in seven states. My first registration (an eight-hour exam) was in Missouri in 1963.
While working for the California Department of Water Resources, I attended a land surveyor’s meeting in Los Angeles in the late 1960’s in which comments were made encouraging equipment manufacturer’s to develop a field surveying device that would replace the third person in a survey party. Then appeared on the field surveying scene optical theodolites with Topcon, Kern, K & E, Geodimeter, Beetle, Cubic, Lietz, etc. EDMI’s mounted thereon. And, not to forget the Hewlett-Packard HP 3820A Total Station, HP 3851A external data collector, the HP 9815S Surveying Computer, K & E Survey 31 Computer, and the HP 35 and 45 handheld calculators.
More recent developments include GPS positioning, robotic total stations, laser scanners, UAV fixed-wing and “copter” low-altitude photography platforms, satellite photos, radar sensing photography and the ubiquitous (or umbilical!) cell phone.
No matter how much college course work or textbook study one may accumulate, there is no substitute for in-the-field monument searches (RE: Jeffrey Turner, PLS) as one experiences the summer heat and humidity of the day, cutting through the black berries and hedge row barriers, fighting off the hornets and mosquitoes, pacifying unfriendly (or inquisitive) dogs or livestock, calming a hostile neighbor, or deciding to make that last shovel scraping of the ground even though you have found a multi-pin colony (AKA nonprofessional pin burial sites!) of previous surveyors opinions as to the correct location of the land corner. There’s an old saying, “doctor’s bury their mistakes while surveyors monument theirs!”
How is the “apprentice” land surveyor to obtain this valuable on-the-job field experience with a one-man survey party? It isn’t going to fall out of the sky! Experienced professional surveyors know there is more to land surveying than computing the geometric position to the nearest 0.0001 feet in the office but never investigating the field conditions or attempting to follow the footsteps of the original surveyor! Dan is right; it is up to us older, experienced professionals to encourage young men and women to enter the land surveying and mapping profession, and then mentor them.
Allowing some training time in our project budgets and permitting a fledgling surveyor to tag along with an experienced field person will yield rich rewards in the future (both for the firm and for the profession).
Being retired now for 20 years, I discovered there are many volunteer opportunities available in which retired professionals can utilize their mentoring and management skills. I continue receiving numerous copies of surveying, mapping, GIS, GPS and engineering magazines and journals. After thoroughly reading them (with some archiving), I distribute them to either our local Community College, local High School career planning adviser, or to the 224th Engineering Company “A” of the Oregon Army National Guard. Hopefully, some of the readers of this material will be encouraged to investigate a career in surveying, mapping or engineering.
Since retiring I have tutored first and second graders in two school districts; and tutored adults in Adult Basic Education (ABE/GED) and Basic Life Skills through our community college. I have been on several governing boards and had the opportunity to give presentations on land surveying to community volunteer organizations. Another major accomplishment is researching through the Internet the past 15 years and compiling a land surveying-related database, and a historical database for a number of states, now totaling over 100 GB’s of information.
Surveying has been a truly challenging and rewarding profession for me. Being willing to travel and relocate (my wife of 52 years was in charge of the moving boxes!) presented the opportunity to explore portions of Missouri, Illinois and Iowa; and enjoy the scenic west coast from San Bernardino, Calif. to Bellingham, Wash. during my surveying and mapping adventures. My new challenge for 2016: president of the Sweet Home Senior Center and local bus transportation governing board.
Hank Berg, PLS (Retired),
Sweet Home, Oregon
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