2/12/1998 NOTES From The White County Historical Society Library

White County Historical Society Library
by Charlene Shields!
This article appeared in THE CARMI TIMES
February 12, 1998

Oil Industry in White County

Gary Edwards' project to record some history of the oil industry in White County interests me immensely.
It started me remembering .....
I remember when all of these "oil people" (mainly from Oklahoma and Texas) came in here.
There was NO housing.
It was considered each household's "civic" duty to take someone in.
I became aware of this one weekend when I came home from college and came bounding into the living room.
But none of our furniture was there, and a strange man was sitting in a rocker reading the newspaper!
My folks had rented out that room (and had strung a curtain across half of the kitchen to make another 1/2 room) and had an "oil field" couple living there.

I can't remember anyone of our neighbors who didn't take in someone.
Some people cleaned out chicken houses and rented them.
One neighbor put cots on an open back porch, and workers slept there.
Many of the single men were glad to have home cooking and paid for the homemaker to pack lunches for them.

It sounds as if we were taking advantage of the workers.
However, I think they paid only $5 or so a week.
In our case, the man lost his job, and my folks not only gave the couple free rent but also gave them grocery and gasoline money for them to survive on.
They had at one time been well of, but the man said he had drilled 77 dry holes in succession and lost everything, so he was reduced to just working at the lowliest of jobs.
They were always grateful that my folks offered to and did stake them until they got on their feet.

Some families didn't want their daughters to date those "oil johnnies." Of course, that made them all the more interesting to me.
I remember one night asking my date, a Halliburton employee, what he thought of the people of White Co.
He replied, "They're strange.
They fry their steaks, and they are afraid of gas!" He was right.
At that time, no one around here had ever heard of grilling meat, and no one used gas.
Those fortunate enough to have central heat had a coal stoker!
A prominent local attorney once remarked if we hadn't had that influx of new blood of all those people moving in, we would all have been imbeciles by now from intermarriage.
Our population had become rather stagnant.
When those outsiders swarmed in here, many old-timers were mistrustful and looked at the whole business with a jaundiced eye.
Little did we know that a new industry would revive and change forever the face of White County.
Little did we know that many of those new people would remain here the rest of their lives, would contribute in invaluable ways to the community and turn out to be some of the finest people in the world!

We continue to be comfortably busy with letters and visitors to our Genealogy Library. We're open from 11 to 5 on Wednesdays. Come join us.

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