Lee Jamison

An Oilfield Christmas_ Kilgore - Lee  Jamison

An Oilfield Christmas: Kilgore, 2018

Painting oil on canvas  
30 x 40 in

Location: Corner of Main and Kilgore streets, Kilgore

Heading up to Northeast Texas was, in part, a reprise of a piece of my early memories from childhood. Once when I was a kid of six or seven Daddy decided to take a Saturday to do an East Texas trip from Shreveport. It was very consciously a TEXAS tour and eventually became the root of my half-joking claim that I was born in "occupied East Texas". We started by crossing the Red River to Bossier City, then crossing back via the Earl Long Bridge to the foot of Texas Street. We went up Texas Street to First Methodist, turned left onto Texas Avenue, and followed that as U.S. Highway 80 all the way into Texas. In Texas we continued to Kilgore, where steel oil derricks left over from the boom of the 1930s and '40s stood haphazardly all across the city.

These were representative of one of the greatest mineral finds in American history. It not only meant that East Texas was generally more prosperous than much of the rest of the country during the Great Depression, but it made the region strategically valuable. A large percentage, some say much more than half, of the oil that fueled the Allied Powers' Herculean effort of W.W.II came from the East Texas oil fields. Kilgore was front and center of that. Just beyond this particular spot is an area called "the world's richest acre". So sure, East Texas is not generally regarded as a place of glamor. But this was the gas station of the free world.

Some derricks still are spread about, and it is possible even today to see rent houses and active pump jacks sharing the same lot, but for the most part the big structures have been regimented to an orderly distribution around downtown. It does make for a spectacular Christmas display.

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