A speech given by Lucille Glasgow at the all-school reunion in June 2000:
THROUGH THE CENTURY AT PETROLIA SCHOOLS
A lot can happen in a hundred years, even in our time, much less in God's time. Here we are in the new millennium, the year 2000. It's a good time to take a look back to see where we've been and a good time to take a look ahead to see where we're going.
Think with me back just a century. After all, there is not enough known about this area a millennium ago to talk about. Remember in 1900 there was no Petrolia, no Byers. It was just a scant 27 years before that the county had enough Anglo settlers to be organized. Comanche and Kiowa Indians held sway over this area before that and there was even a battle between the Indians and the U.S. Cavalry as late as 1872 in a surrounding county.
In 1900 there were schools at Benvanue and Charlie, known as Camp Wichita, and Riverland and Valentine, Kemp, Frog Creek, Thornberry, Hurnville, Long Creek and perhaps some others in this North Clay Co. area at that particular time. After all, there were 80 schools in the county at one time or another.
This area was mostly ranch land with a few farms scattered about. The Acers Ranch had become the Byers Brothers Ranch and they had been dividing it into farms.
Then in 1901 came Mr. Lockridge, a farmer who needed water for his cattle. It was probably about as hot and dry then as it is now. You all know the story of how he was disappointed about the sticky, greasy substance that came oozing out of the ground - his cows couldn't drink that stuff!
Word soon spread and land speculators and bankers came running. Some farmers sold their land for $10 an acre but soon prices quadrupled.
People soon flocked to the area - some to get the best leases for the least money, some with equipment to drill and most to work in the various jobs necessary to produce oil. And so a boom town was born - Oil City
In 1904, Mr. Joe Kemp, Frank Kell and Morgan Jones of Wichita Falls built the Wichita Oklahoma Railroad out the route of present-day Highway 79 to Byers instead of Thornberry and Charlie as originally planned. The lure of oil as cargo won over that of agricultural products. The first thing hauled over the new road was a tank of crude oil.
Oil City dwellings had been mostly shacks and tents so it was not very difficult just to pick up and move over to the railroad, where more substantial housing was built and the town of Petrolia came into being, as Byers did also.
By 1906, the oil was found to have a high gas content and in 1909 a company was formed to produce and distribute this gas - Lone Star.
Now I have found conflicting stories about the school's beginnings. According to the late Mr. Eugene Hurn, the Long Creek building out on Old Lone Star Rd, southeast of the old Lone Star plant, was moved first to about where the state marker for the Discovery Well #1 is located and later moved in to the present campus to become Petrolia School. Mr. Hurn also said that Monte McBride was the teacher at Long Creek and just moved with the school to become Petrolia's first superintendent. Most stories just say the building was moved to the present campus to be used as Petrolia's first school. Just last week I found some more information that indicates Long Creek School was west of Highway 148 instead of southeast of Lone Star.
However, I have seen a picture of a group of pupils standing by a wooden frame building that was located in the area of the Lone Star plant and was in operation as late as 1918. That was when the late Winnie Collins said she started to school out there. These two pieces of information are all the record I have been able to locate on a school at Lone Star.
Now I realize I'm raising more questions than I'm answering. I keep hoping that I'm going to find someone who has some additional information to fill in the details to make the complete story of the Petrolia School. And I will keep searching. In fact, I think we need a detailed history of the school and the area. I would certainly welcome any information you have, and photos, to make such a history possible. I understand Dean has compiled a lot of their history through Dean Baptist Church but it's not available to the public. Is anyone working on Charlie's?
All of this probably won't matter by the next millennium, or even the next century, or even now to most people. It's just that I feel we can better see where we're going now and into the future if we know where we've been. I like to know the whole story. I know it's not of the highest priority because our future is in God's hands, just as our past has been.
We're probably lucky to be able to reconstruct the past as much as we can, considering the scarcity of printed records from those days. Then, too, there is always the danger of drawing false conclusions in our search for the whole story. I might be like the little boy who found a pressed leaf in an old Bible his mother had just purchased at a garage sale. He rushed excitedly to his mother and exclaimed, "Look what I found - Adam's fig leaf." Now, you see, this is funny to us because we know the Bible story. Is the upcoming, or the next generation, going to know?
At any rate, there had been a Long Creek School as early as 1880, known as community school #7. In 1893 it became Long Creek Common School District # 51, so when it was moved, it became Petrolia Common School District # 51. This seems to have been in 1905. Monte McBride was teacher and superintendent with 36 pupils.
In August, 1906, it became Petrolia Independent School District with J.H. Vance superintendent and with 56 pupils. In 1908 another room was added and the Masonic Lodge built a hall above the school.
Also in 1908, according to Mr. C.C. Bock, construction was begun on a two-story brick building which cost $8000 with a $10,000 addition in 1914. It had a basement under the north end where the primary grades were taught. The high school was upstairs. How many of you started to school in that building?
Mr. Bock came to Petrolia as superintendent in 1924 and stayed 18 years until 1942. He did much to strengthen the school. One of the first things he did was to get the road to the Lone Star Plant and many of Petrolia's streets paved with crushed rock from Chico. The highways to Charlie and Byers were also rocked in 1924.
Under his leadership a water system was put in, the campus and the district were enlarged and tennis courts, track and baseball diamonds were constructed.
Mr. Bock, backed by a progressive and long-tenured board, also put in a complete commercial department. From that time on, I dare say more Petrolia graduates have forged successful careers founded on skills learned in that department than from any thing else they learned in high school.
He also pushed for further accreditation from the state and added an affiliated course in physical education and installed laboratory equipment where needed.
Mr. Bock was an excellent teacher as well as administrator. Our brother-in-law, Weldon "Cutter" Anderson, used to tell me how Mr. Bock would stop the class to teach one-on-one to someone having a little trouble staying up. He had the personal magnetism to do this in such a way not to bore the rest of the class.
From a 1928 copy of the school paper, Petrolia Hi-Lights, we find that Mr. Bock collected $1.00 each from students to pay for their classics and other reading material for their 4 years. The P.T.A. added to the fund for a library. This included a set of "Americana Encyclopedias." Reading was considered very important, and the study of current events through newspapers, magazines and radios was promoted.
Also in that 1928 school paper was a student editorial stressing the need for school expansion and urging the people to vote in an upcoming bond election. Evidently it passed because a gymnasium was built in 1929. Now Petrolia had two buildings.
This was known as the gymnasium-auditorium until the new high school was built in 1955. Then it became the cafetorium. Now I believe they call it the little gym and use it for practice and P.E.
In 1939, still under the leadership of Mr. Bock, the two-story brick building was wrecked and replaced with one story built over part of the existing basement. Many of you will remember attending classes at various churches or downtown buildings while the new school was being built.
The high school and office occupied the rooms north of the entrance with the study hall across the end where the band hall now is. The library was in one end of this. The elementary grades were taught in the rooms south of the entrance with the playground between that building and the gym. How many of you started your Petrolia School journey in that building - 1st grade or otherwise?
Students either brought their lunch, went home, or walked down town to buy a hamburger or in the early days across the street to Mrs. Kerley's, where they could buy a hamburger, soda pop, and chips for 5 cents each. Along in 1947 the other end of the study hall was made into a kitchen with the students picking up their trays and taking them back to their rooms to eat. Here Ola Armour, Lora Gibson, Beulah Tinsley and Ova Whitmire dished out a lot of beans and cornbread on into the early fifties.
The district was expanded in 1941-42 when Dean Rural School District # 19 was consolidated with Petrolia ISD. Dean Dale was itself a 1927 consolidation of Lesiler, #60, begun in 1905; Dean, #73; Dale, #74; and part of Kempner, #65, whose beginning dates I still have not located. Dean had built a new brick school building, a gym, teacherage, light plant, and water system in 1928. Grades 10 and 11 had been transported into Petrolia, beginning in 1935. They had a scholastic population of 150 in 1937. How many of you went to school in Dean?
Another part of the 1941-42 expansion took place when Charlie high school students and some teachers were added to the mix. Now, Charlie has the distinction of having had a school longer than any other part of the district, long before Petrolia and Dean existed. Their school was begun in 1879 with J.R. Nye the teacher. It was called Spring Valley Community School, sometimes Camp Wichita. In 1884 it became Charlie Common School District #36. When Charlie consolidated with Petrolia, it included other rural schools: Linville, #72; Fleming, #79; and Thornberry, #46. These schools had consolidated with Charlie in the '20's, dissolved later, with high school students going to Petrolia, Wichita Falls, or Byers. They came back together and in 1935 Charlie had an affiliated two-year high school with juniors and seniors bused to Petrolia. They also had a new brick building and gym and a scholastic population of 175. How many of you went to school in Charlie?
In 1941-42, half of the Pecan Grove district consolidated with Petrolia, the other half to Byers. Anyone here who went to Pecan Grove?
Within ten years Petrolia's buildings were bulging at the seams; a bond issue was passed and a new high school was built in 1955 under O.L. Nolen, Superintendent. This is the present junior high building. This is where I came in. The first year I was here we were in the 1939 building and the next in the new building under Grady Brewster.
You know sports are nothing new in school. Softball and track have been popular for a long time and Petrolia teams have been among the best, but basketball has been the main sport played at Petrolia for many years. Until the gym was built, they played on outdoor courts, sometimes graveled, sometimes not. I can imagine the ball had a mind of its own on such uneven ground. Competition within the county was keen. It would be interesting to hear what each of you remembers about some of those county, and district, tournaments. Up through the years, the girls had only volleyball as a school sport with tennis added a little later.
UIL started in 1910 as a debating society but soon enlarged to include other activities. It started in Clay County in 1913 with a debate between Henrietta and Byers. Later, the athletic events were held on the streets in Henrietta. The Petrolia girls won 2nd at state in tennis in 1941, and several basketball teams and numerous individuals have competed and placed at state. Sorry I don't have the exact record. Again, I would welcome your information and any corrections in what I'm saying.
In the early 50's, girls' basketball and track were added; also, vocational agriculture was added to the curriculum at that time. Golf came in 1968 and there were rodeo teams in '69 and '70. Football was begun in 1975 and band a year later. Petrolia organized a Beta Club for honor students in '64 and it was later replaced by a chapter of National Honor Society.
In 1973 a building was erected south of the high school as the new junior high under the leadership of Tyra Roper. This is the present upper elementary building.
In 1980 the high school gym was condemned and an extensive building program was undertaken under the leadership of Herbert Arledge. A new high school and gym were built in the space between the 1939 building and the 1929 cafetorium and all three buildings were connected to become the new high school, library, tax office and cafeteria.
The lower elementary building with classrooms and all-school auditorium was built that same year. Lunches were transported to the elementary pupils from the 1929 building.
Later a kitchen was built onto the auditorium in the lower elementary building so that became the all-school cafetorium, the present situation.
When the new high school took over the elementary space, the junior high moved into the vacated high school and the elementary into the vacated junior high. Since then several temporary classroom buildings have been added between the junior high and the elementary building.
The original ag. shop became the football field house and ag. took over the 1955 high school building for several years before the property on Highway 79 became part of the school.
And now today the will of voters in the district will determine whether another new high school will be built at this time to relieve the present overcrowding and expected expansion. Will this be the first step in the Petrolia Schools’ chronicle of this new millennium?
Transportation has probably played as big a part in these school changes as has any other thing. In the early days, the Charlie area in our case, one or two room schools were numerous, placed 3 or 4 miles apart because pupils had to walk, or perhaps ride horseback, to school. From talking to old timers I've heard such comments as: "Our teacher drove across the pasture in a Model T;" "We always had a bus out to Lone Star Plant; that's where most of the kids came from;" "When the roads were good and muddy, we rocked the bus so we would slide into the ditch and we'd have to go get help - saved us a few classes that way;" "We got stuck in the sand a lot; we'd get out and push;" "We caught rides to go play ball in the neighboring schools."
Finally, roads were improved and so were buses. Of course, today's students wouldn't think of walking to school.
I've already covered the spectrum of subjects taught as they were added to the curriculum. At the turn of the century pupils were still bringing to class any books the family happened to own. This meant not all had the same books, if any. I would have been totally lost in such a situation. They didn't have any of the slick, eye-catching posters and charts and other delightful visual aids we see in classrooms today and they hadn't even dreamed of, much less wished for, things like projectors, films and certainly not computers.
But the teachers in those early days must have done a pretty good job of instilling in their pupils the basics of math, spelling, reading, English, history, civics, science, and physical education since it was members of these early classes who pushed forward inventions and improvements to bring about the technical marvels we enjoy today. And so it is true of each generation's teachers and schools that guide the students in their education. What will the graduates of this first year of this new century do to push forward our frontiers of knowledge and lifestyles?
I know you've read and heard all sorts of lists and comparisons of today and yesterday as we've rolled over into a new century, a new millennium. We've designed and built great systems of transportation and communication; our farmers have improved production enough almost to feed the world; our factories have manufactured enough goods to glut the market; our standard of living has improved so much we laugh at how we used to live and do things and we do not want to go back to the good old days.
I'd like to share with you a letter R.G. Holland wrote to his classmates urging them to attend this reunion. I quote, "The 1900's are over and it's the year 2000. In just a few months it will have been 35 to 40 years since we walked across the stage in the old school cafeteria building at Petrolia, Texas, to receive our high school diplomas.
"With a sigh of relief most of us thought we were attending our last school class and taking our last test. Yet here over a third of a century later, many of us are still taking tests and attending classes of some sort for jobs, hovvies, recreation, etc. Sometimes it seems as if it were only a few short years ago, but when we look at the changes, it feels like another lifetime ago.
"And what changes there have been!
"From concerns about who's dating whom and whom we need to beat in next week's basketball tournament to which grandkid is having a birthday and what's happening to our retirement plan. We've gone from mag wheels to meg-a-hertz and from frog gigs to gig-a-bytes. Leaving our high school days behind, we thought that the most technical thing we might need to do was to operate a truck or tractor or a typewriter or a calculator. Now with a push of a button on a remote control we select from a 50-channel cable or satellite network and connect to a world wide web of electronic networks with a 'click of a mouse.' And surfing has nothing to do with water.
"I'm composing this letter on a word processor where with the push of a button I can correct all of the spelling and grammar mistakes I still make. Another button will print one or several copies of the letter and another button can electronically mail it to anyone with a computer or a fax machine. Incredible, science fiction stuff? No, very common everyday stuff!
"And then there are the changes in us. Seems most of us have lost some hair or hair color, muscle tone, youthful figures, short-term memory, etc. And on a sadder note we've already begun to lose classmates to the ravages of time."
We had to fight 2 world wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, in Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo and other hot spots to try to keep the world from being completely overrun by forces of evil.
Pick up your morning paper or turn on the news. School shootings, low behavior in high places, family breakups - even confusion as to what constitutes a family - so much sexual immorality. If we think things are so bad, will we eventually say, "Enough is enough," and actively participate in our communities through the schools and churches, in clean-up campaigns? Will we study issues and will we all go vote our convictions? Will we hold our public officials accountable? Will we teach good citizenship by example?
Maybe I have rose-colored lenses in my glasses, but I believe in the basic goodness of humanity and I certainly believe in the love and goodness of God so that we will come out o.k.
We can recapture the good things of the past as we zoom along now and into the future and enjoy the good things there!
Let me quote an ad from the paper as one such list of specific changes over the years. I'm sure you will recognize them all.
"Brooklyn Bridge, Kitty Hawk, Model T's, and mustard gas, Life, Jack Dempsey, radio, Burma Shave, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Betty Davis, polio, the jitterbug, Flash Gordon, washing machines, Pearl Harbor, Irving Berlin, ration cards, Betty Grable, television, ducktails and poodle cuts, potato chips, coonskin caps, hoola hoops, John Wayne and Arnold Palmer, the Beatles, IBM, love-ins, draft dodgers, DNA, POW, disco, computers, MTV, body piercing, polyester, Visa and Mastercard, Atari, Princess Di, fertility pills, Nike, Apple, Microsoft, rap music, CNN, O.J. Simpson, the Internet, liposuction, Pokemon, cloning, Viagra, debit cards, CDs."
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