He started with a ’54 Chevy: Tony Day of Carnduff passes at 85

Carnduff – On May 24, a legend of the southeast Saskatchewan oilfield, Tony Day of Carnduff passed away peacefully at the Galloway Health Centre, Oxbow, SK. on Thursday, May 24, 2018 at the age of 85.

Founder of Fast Trucking Service Ltd. and numerous other companies, Day was also well known for his philanthropy.

Tony is survived by his loving wife, Vi; four children, Linda (Ross) Apperley (their daughters, Rachelle & Kiana), Teresa (Mitch) Kyle (daughter Cheryl), Dennis (Carmen) (their children, Emily (Tyler) Fernell & Rilee, Harly (Brook) Nevaeh & Haizley, Julia and Nathan), and Larry (Lori) (their children, Lexi, Levi and Lucas); sister Dorothy Armstrong; sister-in-law, Mona (George) Connelly; also numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

A funeral service for Tony will be held at the Carnduff Arena, Carnduff, SK. on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 2:00pm. Reverend Kathy Kyle will officiate. Burial will follow at the Carnduff Cemetery.

His passing was recognized in the House of Commons by Souris-Moose Mountain MP Robert Kitchen, who made a statement in Parliament on May 24. (see his statement at the end of this story.)

Tony was awarded the Southeast Saskatchewan Oilman of the Year Award in 1999, and inducted into the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2017 he was presented with the Canada 150 Senate Medal.

On July 27, 2017, Pipeline News sat down at Tony and Vi’s kitchen table and spoke with them about their 60th year in business as Fast Trucking. The story of their business is in many ways part of the story of Tony’s life. Here it is, in its entirety. It ran under the headline “60 years for Fast Trucking Service Ltd.” The story ran in our September 2017 edition.

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This year Fast Trucking Service Ltd. celebrates its 60th year in business, an accomplishment that few companies in the oilpatch achieve, and even fewer still do so under the same ownership.

The company is a fixture in Carnduff, located on the community’s west side with yards on both sides of Highway 18. The skyline is punctuated by a wind turbine installed in 1997 (long before it was fashionable) beside the large shop. In the yards, one finds numerous drilling rigs racked. Some are for sale. Others are waiting for their next job. When it’s time for them to move, it’s a pretty good bet it will be on very large, green trucks with white stripes.

Fast didn’t start out with such mammoth units, however. The beginnings were much more humble. The story of Tony and Vi Day, and eventually their children, is closely tied to that of Fast Trucking.

Originally from southwest Saskatchewan, Tony Day had started to work on drilling rigs in 1952. He began as a roughneck and eventually became a derrickhand. He was also the rig’s mechanic. Paul Guthrie Oil was the first company he worked with.

“He came here in 1956 with the rigs, from Gull Lake,” said Vi on July 27. She was sitting with Tony at the kitchen table of their house, across the road from the main shop and yard. That table was Fast Trucking’s principle office for decades, and many people have told Pipeline News over the years how they got their paycheque, signed on the kitchen table.

“I didn’t need anything fancy,” Vi said, asked about her long time “office,” the kitchen table.

Tony’s work on drilling rigs were very much the early days of the southeast Saskatchewan oilfield.

Tony had originally worked with Charter Drilling in those days, and then they turned into Antelope Drilling. “Tony worked with them for 18 years their mechanic,” Vi said.

Started with a ’54 Chevy

Tony started Fast Trucking at the age of 25 with a 1954 Chevy 5-ton truck. That truck had two purposes. He would haul water with it, then remove the water tank and move the rig when it was move day. Then he’d suck on the water tank again. They still have that truck, and it gets taken out for special occasions.

That tank had a 50-bbl. capacity, and the truck earned $30 for a 24-hour day. The next unit, a winch truck, could be charged out at $7 an hour. It, too, had a water tank that could be sucked onto the bed as needed.

Tony said of rigs back then, “They weren’t as heavy, so they were easy to move.”

Soon he bought a half-ton truck with a welder on the back, too.

Asked where he grew up, Tony replied, “Vi says I haven’t.”

Tony’s originally from Admiral, Sask.

Tony met Vi Bayliss in 1957.

“The first time I saw him, my brothers worked on the rig with him,” Vi said. “They brought him to our place. We had a picnic in our yard.”

Tony said, “We drilled a well on her land. It was a dry well.”

After dating a few years, Tony and Vi were married Dec. 14, 1960.

The rig was home

During the 1960s the Day family lived and worked at the rigs, in a house trailer that were pretty primitive compared to today’s. They tell of one trailer that would give them an electrical zap every so often from a bad ground.

“We used to have a little porch on the side of our trailer, when we lived in a yard that was permanent for more than a month. He had a barrel cut in one-third. He filled it with water and put his bit in there, and that’s where he re-tipped his bits,” Vi said. That meant welding tungsten back onto the bits.

“In the 60s, we mainly lived at the oil rig. Tony had his water truck and his winch truck he converted for a fast hole. We always used that truck on that rig. We didn’t go anywhere else to move rigs. He was their welder and he re-tipped bits for them,” Vi said. They lived at the rig, wherever that rig might be, for the first four years of their marriage.

“I used to drive water trucks and winch trucks for Tony,” she added. “I drove a gin pole truck or winch truck. Tony and I would go start moving the rig the day before it was going to move, so we could make a little more money. We’d each take a truck and go haul.”

The winch truck had gin poles on it. When they finished moving the rig, the gin poles came off and the water tank went on.

Farm and family

In 1963 they started farming, and the family farm continues to this day.

Children started arriving around that time, too, with Linda (Apperley) in 1963, Teresa (Kyle) in 1964, Dennis in 1966 and Larry in 1970.

Linda has been in the office since 1985, handling accounts payable and payroll. Teresa is a nurse’s aid, but she’s been the gopher and used to drive pilot car at times. Dennis is general manager and still gets into the trucks as need. “I still wash trucks,” he said.

Larry heads up the dispatch, with a map behind his desk punctuated by pins for each rig. The boys both swamped and drove, working their way up. Larry’s wife, Lori, worked in the office as well until the recent slowdown came.

“When Linda had babies, she brought her babies to work all the time. After they were borne, she just brought them here,” Vi said. Those kids are now growing up, and many of the grandkids, the third generation of Days, are now also involved, driving pilot trucks, working in shop and office.

In 1974 Antelope wanted Tony to move to Nisku in 1974 to be their head mechanic, but the Days declined, choosing instead to continue with their water trucks and farming.

Love those auctions

“We bought all our water trucks new. A lot of our rig moving trucks, Tony bought at Ritchie (Brothers) auction sales. We didn’t have a lot of new trucks until Dennis started,” Vi said.

“Tony likes their auctions. I think he went to their first auction in 1972 and bought a trailer. That was his first purchase, I think. He went all the time. Even as busy as we were, he’d move a rig, drive there all night, go to the sale, turn around and come home,” she added. “He had a buddy, Harvey Murray, that would go with him quite often. He would haul the equipment home that Tony bought.”

Asked what the best part of an auction is for him, Tony replied, “When I hear ‘Sold!’”

Vi said, “Tony likes to buy the first item at a sale, no matter what it is. It’s a good sale.”

Other ventures

“Tony never, ever turned down any type of a job, that I recall,” Vi said. “He hauled bales when things were tough.”

“We’re still hauling bales,” Dennis interjected.

The first shop was a Quonset moved onto their acreage. It saw three additions. “We built the shop in 1995,” said Dennis of their current shop. “That was a big deal.”

That shop was relocated from Coronach.

Over the years the Day family’s business grew beyond Fast Trucking to a substantial group of companies. In 1979, Day Construction, an earth-moving outfit, was started. Tony’s oil company, TDL Petroleums, was formed in 1986. In 1996, Competition Environmental Land Spreading Ltd. fired up. Service rig company General Well Servicing started the next year.

In 2001 Dennis started his own oil company, Runcible Oil Corp.

In 2005, Estevan-based Sam’s Trucking was purchased. Virden, Man.-based Fontana’s Trucking was acquired in 2006. In 2010, Forsyth Trucking was added.

Ups and downs

Vi ran the administration of the company until roughly 10 years ago. “I still do books, but I don’t do dispatching. I used to do all the dispatching at one time,” she said. “I did all the invoicing, all the permits, all the payroll.”

Vi noted they dealt with some other company’s bankruptcies that were hard on her nerves.

Tony noted that one of the most prominent was Williston Hunter, saying, “$800,000, they owed us.”

“We had lots of ups and downs, but we survived,” Vi said. “It was with the help of all the men and our good customers, and the people we owed money to that we made it.”

Buys days

Long-time truck push Kelly Krupka said a rig move these days will involve 10 to 20 trucks, depending on how far it is. “Tomorrow will be 14,” he said.

The most moves the company had in one day was 15 rigs, around 2008. At their peak, they could have seven spreads going at once. Today, with reduced manpower due to the downturn, that’s down to four.

Vi said, “In 1985, it was extremely busy, and we didn’t have a lot of equipment at that time. We were moving on our own and they would move up to three rigs, with the same fleet of trucks, in a day. I don’t know if we made four, but we made lots of threes. Not much sleep in those days.”

Hours of service regulations weren’t as stringent back then.

Kelly said, “We’d move rigs for 20 hours a day, then we’d send the stuff home so Tony could fix it at night.”

“Then he’d be in the shop most of the night, fixing, and come to bed around 3 and be up at 5 and go again,” Vi continued.

“When we first started, all we really needed was a licence plate, insurance and compensation,” Vi said. Now they need ISNetworld, Complyworks and COR.  

All loads were smaller, and lighter, Vi, said about their early days. A heavy load might have been 35,000 pounds for a 250 horsepower pump with a bank of Jimmies.

“Now they’re 1,300 horsepower that weigh over 100,000 pounds,” Dennis said.

Oilman of Year

In 1999, Tony was honoured with the Southeast Oilman of the Year award. In 2009 he was inducted into the Saskatchewan Petroleum Industry Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame citation noted, in addition to his other work, “He also had the distinction of having designed and built the first free-standing double-triple service rig.”

People tend to stick around

Linda explained that Fast Trucking has seven employees with more than 30 years in, 12 with 20 years plus, and. There are around 90 people working with Fast.

Jamie Jones is the longest-term employee, followed by Kelly, who joined in November 1985, “for a year or two.”

That’s not uncommon with this outfit. A month before, while doing a story on Fontana’s Trucking, Bruce Bailey told Pipeline Newsthat he intended to stick around six months after he sold the company to the Day siblings. Eleven years later, he’s still there. (Fontana’s is run as a separate entity.)

Asked what the secret is for working in a family business, Linda said, “Everybody has their own job and does their own job.”

Tony said, “Always say, ‘Yes.’ When your wife wants something, or your kids want something, you always say, ‘Yes,’ whether you give them the chocolate bar or not.”

He thinks its pretty special, having worked with his family all these years.

Asked if he would have done anything differently, Tony mentioned when he fell through the ice on a river seven years ago.

Some cows fell through the ice, then the excavator that went to rescue them fell through, too. They were trying to winch it out, and Tony fell through, too. It was just south of Glen Ewen. “You should have seen the ice fly when I kicked it, though!” Tony said.

As for the business, he said, “I don’t think I could have done anything different.”

Dennis said, “If someone told Tony, ‘You can’t do it,’ he just went ahead and did it.”

Tony added, “I pride myself on the one thing I did for the oilpatch. I built the first free-standing service rig, and that saved the oil companies thousands of dollars.”

Vi said, “We were lucky to have good customers and good hired men, and a hardworking family.”


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Tony Day recognized in Parliament

Souris-Moose Mountain MP Robert Kitchen made the following statement in the House of Commons on May 24:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my constituent and friend, Tony Day, who passed away this morning surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

“Tony was the definition of an upstanding citizen. In 1957, he purchased a truck to haul fresh water to the oil drilling rigs. This was the start of Fast Trucking Service, which grew to 85 trucks and to become a major contributor to the Saskatchewan oil industry.

“Tony was a legend in the oil field, employing hundreds of people from Carnduff and southeast Saskatchewan over the years. He was a man who truly cared about his community, giving back more than he was given and supporting the citizens of Carnduff in good times and in bad. I have always said he reminded me of my grandfather. Tony was awarded the Southeast Oilman of the Year Award in 1999 and inducted into the Saskatchewan Oil Patch Hall of Fame in 2009. I also presented Tony with a Senate of Canada 150 medal for all of his work and dedication.

“Tony leaves a legacy and spirit that will live on forever. To his wife Vi, and his children, Linda, Teresa, Dennis, and Larry, I send my deepest condolences.”

 

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