News / USA

Signs of Oil Rush Dominate Texas Town

Signs of Oil Boom Dominate Texas Towni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
April 02, 2013 3:44 PM
The United States is in the midst of another energy production boom and, by 2020, could be producing more oil than global leader Saudi Arabia. One place that knows all about the impact an oil rush can have is the tiny East Texas city of Kilgore. Mike Osborne reports.
Signs of Oil Boom Dominate Texas Town
Mike Osborne
The United States is in the midst of another energy production boom and, by 2020, could be producing more oil than global leader Saudi Arabia.
 
One place that knows all about the impact an oil rush can have is the tiny East Texas city of Kilgore.

More than eight decades after oil was discovered there, pumps are still lifting Texas crude out of the ground. The pumps are everywhere, making their constant thump and rattle impossible to escape.

Kilgore’s been through several cycles of energy boom and bust in the years since. The lessons learned are preserved in the city’s East Texas Oil Museum.

“We were less than 400 in population according to the census of 1930,” said Joe White, the museum’s director. "Literally overnight, after the Crimm well came in on 28 December, 1930, at 22,000 barrels a day, the population swelled to over 10,000 and things have never been the same again.”

In fact, things quickly got out of hand in Kilgore. The Texas Rangers had to be called in to restore order. They had no place to keep prisoners, so a local church building was pressed into service as a temporary jail.

Many of the newcomers ended up living in the town park that first winter. Their makeshift shelters of cardboard and pine branches provided little protection from the weather, and disease spread quickly in the crowded camps.

“[There were] all kinds of respiratory ailments,” White said. “I’m told by the old doctors that it wasn’t unusual to find someone dead down there almost every morning.”

The epicenter of Kilgore’s oil boom was a quarter-hectare of land in the heart of town. So much oil was pumped from this one city block, it came to be known as “The World’s Richest Acre.”

“There were well over 1,000 derricks inside the city limits of Kilgore,” said Bill Woodall, editor of the local newspaper, the Kilgore News Herald. “Literally, the skyline was dominated by derricks. The backs of buildings, they just knocked them off, and that’s what happened here. They knocked off the backs of buildings, and set up derricks and drilled wells.”

All that oil money meant bigger churches, nicer homes, a small college, library and theater seating 900 in town of 10,000. But there were also challenges.

To this day, oil pumps, tanks and pipelines take up so much land that Kilgore has a housing shortage, and the rollercoaster economy makes it hard to build more.

“The last four or five builders that have come in to put in housing additions, four of them went bankrupt. One did it twice,” said Kilgore Mayor R.E. Spradlin III.

Money dries up so quickly in a down cycle, builders get caught holding unsold properties. Spradlin said those highs and lows make it hard for everyone to plan ahead, including city leaders.

“You know, the city’s income goes up and down. In the crash of the mid-1980s, we had to cut people’s pay. We had layoffs,” he said.

Spradlin was born and raised in Kilgore, and said that in spite of the challenges of boomtown life, residents are fiercely proud their roughneck heritage.

“My junior high school song was,‘Neath the towering steel of derricks stands our junior high,’” Spradlin recalled, singing the tune. “So it permeated every single facet of living in Kilgore.”

Kilgore routinely gets calls from other small towns wanting copies of the regulations the city wrote to manage its oil rush.

“All the laws about how close together you drill wells, etcetera, that are used worldwide now, came from mistakes we made in Kilgore by drilling wells every 25 feet,” Spradlin said. “We had oil wells drilled in churchyards, in people’s back yards, school grounds.”

Spradlin tells America’s latest batch of energy boomtowns to keep recurring expenses low and save as much as they can. But the most important lesson of all, he tells them, is to remember that the rush of money can end as quickly as it began.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More