Saturday, August 16, 2008
Like A Ghostly Burned Forest
The oil derricks of the Burk-Waggoner Pool appear to rise from the land like some ruined sentential forest. Imagine the dust, the stink, the unending noise and work, the monotony of the horizon in 1920’s Wichita Falls, TX. These photos present a haunting view into the start of big oil in our country; an industry which made those engaging in it amazingly and quickly rich.
We are in the North Texas History Museum, a rather small affair in downtown with a dearth of actual items, but telling a poignant history nonetheless with many photographs of the period. Most of the museum is occupied by several rooms of a permanent military collection, a small cowboy room, a larger oil room. An old WWII vet by the name of Otis, who commanded a Higgins boat (delivery of troops to shore) in the winning of Guam takes Marc aside and starts a long litany of tales. We are used to this; my father is a WWII Navy vet who underwent a sinking of his ship, the USS Halligan, off the coast of Okinawa. He was one of the few to survive and we have memorized his stories he has told them so often. I note the ending of WWII with a quick kiss from a fly boy above the proclamation "No more war for him" and a copy of the Japanese surrender. Otis continues to occupy Marc’s time as I slink past looking at exhibits and taking photographs. Finally, making an excuse for lunch, we make our escape.
One thing that tied things together was seeing this photo of the old hotel we noted in downtown a week ago. (Note the oil derrick right downtown!) We see it was originally named the Holt Hotel and that the Defoors building now pawning guns and gold was at one time the National Bank of Commerce. No wonder the beautiful etching on the building. It is plain to see that Wichita Falls is a mere shadow of its one time stature; reduced to a struggling relic on the hot north Texas plains. I bet if you asked, folks would like to go back to those glory days. I know Otis lives there in his mind.