An Oil Field Legacy “Another Time, Another Era”: A Brief Profile of Ed Pugh

Title: An Oil Field Legacy, “Another Time, Another Era”: A Brief Profile of Ed Pugh

Author: Holly Sell

Publication: The Outcrop, January 2008, p. 6-7


Ed Pugh was born on July 20th, 1922. He was raised by his loving parents, Edward and Lois, along with his brother, Joseph, in their hometown of Kansas City, MO. Now in his eighties, Ed currently lives in Colorado, working on prospects as an independent geologist. While he enjoys spending most of his time at the Denver Earth Resources Library, Ed wasn’t always a geologist. Ed’s father was a lawyer, who hoped that his son would, one day, follow in his father’s footsteps. However, it was Ed’s science teacher, Mr. Bishop, who had the defining influence on his future passion: geology. In his junior year in high school, Ed’s favorite class was “Physiography,” which was a basic earth science course emphasizing the geology of our planet. This course was instructed by Mr. Bishop, Ed’s inspiration. Mr. Pugh explained that “Mr. Bishop always had a way of getting his students excited, which is why he made an excellent basketball coach!”

Thus, when Ed graduated high school, in 1939, he decided to enroll in the University of Kansas City, to study geology. As he was finishing, in 1943, the second Great Wer in Europe was raging. So, with a fresh degree in hand, Ed headed off to join the Navy. Ed’s brother, Joseph, also followed suit and enlisted in the Army. They both survived the war, although Ed’s brother was injured in the “Battle of the Bulge.” Ed was then sent to Columbia University in NY, to be trained as an officer for the U.S. Navy. After graduation, Ensign Pugh was assigned to what is called a “Station Vessel,” which is a utility support vessel. Stationed out in San Pedro, CA, his first assignment was the U.S.S. Metha Nelson.

Metha Nelson, reprinted with permission, Navsource.

Interestingly, this ship was not a carrier or a cruiser. Rather, the Metha Nelson was actually an antique sailing vessel, obtained by the Navy from MGM studios. Moreover, this particular ship won notoriety, when she was featured in the original “Mutiny on the Bounty,” filmed in 1935. Ensign Pugh was then sent to Key West, Florida, where he attended “Sub Chaser School,” which is exactly that: a school that teaches worthy seamen the art of war-time submarine tactics and counter offensives. Immediately after his third graduation, in not so many years, he was then assigned to the “U.S.S. Wainwright, ” a destroyer class ship. He was eventually promoted to First Lieutenant, where he was in charge of the oversight of all the deck equipment.

The Wainwright was mainly used as a convoy escort, and Ed traveled between Europe and the U.S. half a dozen times. Soon, orders came for the Wainwright to make her way to the Pacific theater, where she would join the Northern Task Force in the invasion of Japan, in the Central Pacific. However, providence shown brightly on Ed, and while his ship was headed to Alaska, to take on armaments and supplies, the war ended abruptly. Consequently, Ed’s destroyer never saw battle, and he was relieved that he never saw battle in the invasion of Japan.

At this point, orders came in for the Wainwright to head to Philadelphia to be decommissioned. But while they were still in harbor, at the Coronado Naval Base in San Diego, the Wainwright was once again reordered to head for Pearl Harbor, where she would join an armada being assembled there for post-war nuclear testing in the Bikini Atoll island chain, to determine how the radiation and fall-out would affect American ships. By this time, however, Ed had served long enough to be granted an honorable discharge, in March, 1946.

After exiting the Navy, Ed returned to school. And by 1949, Ed had finished another degree, in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Oklahoma. He spent the next 35 years working as a geologist for the National Cooperative Refinery Association (NCRA), in Wichita, KS, and Denver, CO, where he spent most of his time in the mid-continent play. By 1953, when oil was $3 a barrel, gas was 0.16$ MCF, and a 4000-foot well could be drilled for $16K, Ed had already achieved the level of Chief Senior Geologist, managing the four other geologists on staff. While Ed was key to several field discoveries, including the Elrick Field (Lansing-Kansas City pay zone) and the Start Field (Cherokee Sands) as well as a Douglas Sand zone discovered in the already developed Kraft-Prusa Field, he prefers to give credit to the talented geologists that worked under him.

Around that time, the NCRA bought the production of US Smelting and Refining, out of Salt Lake, for $22 million, and that is what brought Ed out to the Rockies. In 1984, Ed left the NCRA and began consulting with Credo Petroleum in other Kansas plays. Ed continues to this day working as a geological consultant, with a career total of 59 years and counting, in the oil and gas industry.

If given more time, Ed would have liked to have known Oklahoma better. The rocks were akin to what he was used to dealing with in Kansas, though a little deeper. Ed also felt a bit nostalgic toward Oklahoma, because he believed that Oklahoma was a state full of serendipity, and, of course, the force pooling laws actually allowed you to get things done!

Left to right: Gene Shearer, Ed and Dolores Pugh at a recent RMAG Veterans Luncheon. Photo by Laura Wray.

When asked what he really liked about his career, Ed said that he really loved working with small teams. The closeness was very satisfying. “l would rather be on a destroyer than a battleship, any day,” he said, “we worked well as a team, and I think we did a pretty good job. I have no regrets.” Ed has had a really successful career. He never felt he had enough education and would really have loved to get a masters degree – had he more time. I guess he was just too busy finding oil to get around to it. He does admit that his undergraduate work really served him well. “It got me what I needed to get going in my job,” he would later say.

But business is more than smarts. “If you like the business you’re in, you will do a better job.” Ed continued, “While the money is nice, it’s not the root of your happiness. I remember trying to hire a young geologist, who was making a lot of money, but he was miserable in his job. I said ‘come to our company and we will try to make you a deal.’ But, I guess he would rather be rich and miserable, than happy.” Perhaps it just helps having that unique perspective that comes with being from another time, another era.