The beginning of the Southern Alberta Chapter of ASHRAE

Adapted from “A History of the Southern Alberta Chapter”, VOL.1 1957-1988




The Southern Alberta Chapter is part of Region XI of A.S.H.R.A.E. and encompasses the area south of Red Deer to the U.S. border. Chapter meetings are held in the city of Calgary, located at the confluence of the Bow & Elbow Rivers, foothills & high plains east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. The population of Calgary was 1,065,455 (2009 Civic Census). It is a major distribution centre for Southern Alberta and the financial centre for the Oil and Gas industry in Canada.


The regional economy of the area was originally based on ranching and agriculture, - supplemented in the 1920’s and 193O’s by petroleum production at Turner Valley, - the latter resulting in a substantial influx of U.S. nationals interested in Alberta's oil and gas potential.


This compatible mix of established ranchers and oil men, both fiercely independent risk takers, resulted in a somewhat unique community. With its world famous “Stampede”, Calgary was often referred to as a “Cow Town” with few cultural aspirations, - but hospitable. This description carried through the 60's and the 70's, when immigration and development reached the point where a restaurant that didn't specialise in steaks might survive; and was put to bed permanently at the '88 Winter Olympic Games.


In 1947, the discovery of new oil and gas resources initiated a substantial boost to the economy of Southern Alberta with an attendant growth in population, buildings to accommodate this growth and industries to serve new activities. This was the environment that attracted professionals, technicians, builders, manufacturers, suppliers, developers and awakened a somewhat easy going heating and plumbing industry to new opportunities.


In the early 195O’s, the majority of designs for heating, ventilation and refrigeration systems installed in Alberta were done by suppliers and contractors. A few consultants were just beginning to establish a practice at that time. The H.V. & A.C. industry was growing and the desire to provide ties between these groups was suggested by a number of individuals who had joined A.S.H.V.E. and A.S.R.E. prior t o the formation of the Southern Alberta Chapter.


On June 17, 1957, an organisational meeting was held for the purpose of establishing interest in a local A.S.H.V.E. Chapter. Sixty-eight people attended and expressed enthusiasm about forming a Chapter to represent Southern Alberta. A charter was applied for and subsequently granted on October 12, 1957. It should be noted that three members of A.S.R.E. located in Calgary participated in the new A.S.H.V.E. Chapter when it was formed.


Southern Alberta elected its first slate of Officers and a Board of Directors in November 1957. It commenced regular meetings and organised an official Charter Night for April 29, 1958. A number of Chapter members, who assisted in its formation, paid Chapter fees and attended meetings, officially became members of A.S.H.V.E. in the period between October 12, 1957, and April 29, 1958. For this reason those who were registered with A.S.H.V.E. H.Q. before Charter Night have been considered Charter members despite the fact they were not A.S.H.V.E. members prior to the date on the Charter.


The Southern Alberta Chapter of ASHRAE has grown from 50 chapter members in 1958, to 194 in 1987 and 355 in 2009. While this is roughly proportional to increased population growth, it would not have occurred had the Chapter failed to generate continued interest in its activities.


Initially, attendance at Chapter meetings and social events was partially prompted by curiosity; i.e., to meet that idiot engineer who designed the system, or to observe at first hand the installer who apparently didn't know the difference between a performance specification and a set of do-it-yourself instructions for a 12-year old kit builder. Nevertheless, a surprising amount of technology transfer took place at these events and individual members obviously felt they were benefitting from the association.


The social attractions of membership were, no doubt, paramount in the first 10 to 15 years of Chapter existence. While these are still important, there has been increasing emphasis on the technical side and to advancement of the science and art of dealing with the environment. Members recognise that A.S.H.R.A.E. is one of the few technical societies that cover the broad-ranging interests of an entire industry, from teacher or researcher through manufacturing, marketing and construction to operation and maintenance.


Thus the history of the Southern Alberta Chapter of A.S.H.V.E. begins with its formation in 1957 and official recognition on April 29, 1958.




The desire to provide a local meeting ground for a growing heating and air conditioning industry was fostered by a group of "ChapterLess” A.S.H.A.E. and A.S.R.E. members and affiliates who were impressed by their society's technical competence and the benefits that might be derived through association with such a group.


An organizational meeting was held in Calgary at the "Al San Club" on June 17, 1957 - admission was $2.00, drinks extra. Out of 143 prospects contacted 68 attended to hear William Nessel (a member of A.S.H.A.E.) talk about the Society. Those who attended seemed enthusiastic about the formation of a Southern Alberta Chapter.


Pro-forma meetings of the Chapter were held at the Al San Club in Calgary beginning on Sept. 19, 1957, with a panel discussion on relationships in the industry. Participants included John Stevenson, M.R.A.I.C., a leading Calgary architect; Ed Crowther, P. Eng., the god-father of H.V. and A.C. consulting in Southern Alberta; Ed Deeves, a mechanical contractor and A.S.H.A.E. member since 1940; J. (Curly) Galbraith, P. Eng., a manufacturers representative and agent and Fred Thompson, a wholesaler and jobber for Crane Co. of Canada. The October 8 meeting dealt with relationships between Mechanical Trades and the General Contractor. The speaker was Al Irish, a construction superintendent with Poole Construction Ltd.


Shortly before the November meeting, word was received that the Southern Alberta Chapter had been granted a Charter by the Society. The date on the Charter is Oct. 12, 1957. At the November 12 meeting, the group listened to a presentation by Bob Butler, P. Eng., titled “Designing an Air Conditioning System” and elected its first slate of Officers and a Board of Governors. As a result of nominations and a secret ballot, the following members were elected:



  1. H.W. Klassen


Vice President

  1. L.D. Ontonio



  1. P.M. Meis



R. Laing


Board of Governors     

Edward Deeves

  1. S.Thomas

  2. F.Thompson

N. Howes


At an executive meeting of the elected group held on November 18, 1957, the following chapter members were appointed to committees to oversee chapter affairs:



Jim Orr, Convener

Don Wheeler

Bud Watson

Bill Mitchell



Dawn Ontonio, Convener

Bill Roe

Glen Narfason

Vaughan Willis


George Camden


Curly Galbraith

Special Events

  1. H.Hobbs

  2. J.Patterson

B. Smolensky


Ed Crowther

Keith Mitchel

By Laws            

Norm Howes

Ernie Willis

Asa Burns

Much of the credit for negotiations on chapter formation must be attributed to the late L. D. (Dawn) Ontonio, the local Trane Co. representative in Calgary at that time. His dedication enlisted the support of his head office in Toronto and major companies such as Honeywell and Johnson Controls. His secretary Norma Koury was the "phoning” committee and the link between the executive and the membership. Chapter dues for members were set at $5.00 for 1957/58

Concurrently, W. G. (Bill) Hole, then Director of Region 7, visited the city to meet with the special events committee and arrangements were made to schedule Charter Night for early spring in 1958. It was agreed that all members of the Society on the date of Charter Night would be classified as Charter Members.

The first social event put on by the Chapter took place on December 10, 1957, with "Ladies Night” held in the Caribbean Room at the Beacon Hotel. Tickets were $7.00 per couple, for cocktails, dinner and dancing. There is no doubt that the event was a success and in subsequent years tickets had to be limited to a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

The chapter held four regular meetings in early 1958 as follows:

Jan. 14/58             -Film by Watts Regulator Co. and a talk on “Boiler and Pressure Vessel Protection” by A. J. Munroe, Chief Boiler Inspector for the Province.

Feb. 11/58           -W. A. Smith, Chief Engineer, Burns & Co. - Ventilation and Heat Recovery in Meat Packing Plants”.

March 11/58          -J. Robertson; - "Legal Aspects of the Mechanics Lien Act “.

April 8/58               -J. Orr; - 'The Economic Advantages of Air Conditioning.

During this period, committees were busy organising Charter Night scheduled for April 29, 1958. This date was chosen since it coincided with a Chapter's Regional Committee meeting for Region 7 to be held in Winnipeg on April 28. The arrangement would permit the Regional Director and Officers of the Society to extend their visit to Western Canada and participate in Charter Night for the Southern Alberta Chapter. L. D. Ontonio and H. W. Klassen attended the Winnipeg Regional Meeting as representatives of the Southern Alberta Chapter.

Charter Night, held on April 29, 1958, was an unqualified success with an attendance of 120, including support from Northern Alberta. Distinguished guests included Prof. E. R. Queer, Society President; Arther J. Hess, First Vice President; W. G. Hole, Director of Region 7; and F. W. Hoffman, Assistant Secretary. Other dignitaries present included Fred Colburne, Provincial Minister of Public Works and Mayor Don McKay representing the City of Calgary. The Chapter was presented with a suitably engraved gavel courtesy of the Savannah Georgia Chapter.

Officers of the Society at that time were:

E. R. Queer - President

A. J. Hess - First Vice President

A. A. Grant - Second Vice President

J. H. Fox - Treasurer

A. V. Hutchinson - Executive Secretary


            Council comprised:

  1. F.H. Faust               

W. G. Hole

  1. A.B. Algren              

Fred Janssen

  1. P.J. Marshall                        

J. Everetts

J.W. May               

W.O. Stewart

  1. P.B. Gordon           

G. B. Priester

  1. P.N. Vinther           

J. N. Livermore

J. H. Ross

Region 7 included 8 chapters, one in British Columbia, two in Alberta, one in Manitoba, two in Ontario and two in Quebec.

The record shows 50 Charter Members for the Southern Alberta Chapter at the time it was officially dedicated. They were:

Jack Abugov, Keith Mitchell, Alex C. Anderson, G. T. Narfason, H. B. Bradley, L. D. Ontonio, D. C. Bell, J. D. Orr, Asa G. Burns, J. P. Patterson, Geo A. Camden, M. V. Peterson, Ray Chisholm, Roy Rahme, D. A. Chesney, O. A. Reggin, Lloyd G. Conn, J. H. Rennie, H. A. Connelly, Stan. Roberts, Edward W. Deeves, W. G. Roe, C. H. Galbraith, S. G. Sharpe, A. F. Goodrich, E. Schaffer, E. J. Crowther, B. O. Sigsworth, H. B. Hobbs, W. Slovack, J. H. Hole, G. G. Smith, N. J. Howes, Ben Smolensky, W. W. Jack, F. M. Terborg, S. B. Jepson, Fred Thompson, H. W. Klassen, W. R. Tinkess, W. R. Laing, E. H. Watson, C. A. Marteinson, D. R. Wheeler, E. Blake McLean, E. G. Willis, G. B. McAdam, A. V. Willis, P. M. Meis, W. W. Wolfe.

The Chapter decided the Officers and Committees originally elected and appointed would carry on for the 1958-59 year. The summer break was preceded by a special golf tournament and social evening at the Earl Grey Golf Club in June 12, 1958. The Chapter continued with regular month by month meetings in September, October and November 1958, ending the calendar year on December 9 with its second "Ladies Night” held at the Glencoe Club. The venue for regular meetings was changed in October from the “Beacon Hotel” to the "Isle of Capri” supper club.

 Some difficulties were experienced in getting suitable speakers, so co-operative efforts were made to share visiting orators from Eastern Canada and the U.S. between Southern Alberta and Northern Alberta Chapters. The records show that panel discussions were a popular fill-in and there was usually a local A.S.H.A.E. member prepared to put his reputation on the line and be heckled by his peers.

 Attendance at meetings during the formative years averaged 35 members and guests and in 1958 the Chapter received a membership award from the Society.

 The merger between A.S.H.A.E. and A.S.R.E. in 1959 had little effect on the Southern Alberta Chapter since the three members of A.S.R.E. who were located in Calgary joined the Chapter and participated in its activities from the beginning. These members were Clarence Greenwood, Blake McLean and Ernie Schaffer.

 H. W. (Hank). Klassen, the chapter’s first president, came to Calgary in 1953 to open an office for Angus, Butler & Associates Ltd. Consulting Engineers. As he tells it, his arrival in Calgary was more by accident than design. Apparently, Peter Rule (a prominent Calgary Architect at that time) and Ed. Crowther (his Consultant) were unable to agree that the mechanical design and contract documents for the 200-bed Colonel Belcher Hospital addition couldn't be done in 30 days. Enquiries by Peter Rule to other firms showed 6 months was more appropriate but his pride and concept of architectural infallibility wouldn't allow him to admit this to "Honest Ed”, so he hired an out-of-town consultant, namely Hank Klassen.

 In 1960, Hank established the firm of H. W. Klassen & Associates Ltd. which he managed until his retirement from full time practice in 1984. He joined A.S.H.A.E. in 1956; was Charter President of the Southern Alberta Chapter and continued as an active Chapter Member and a Life Member of the Society until his passing.