I was 11 years old, walking home from 5th grade at Jane Long Elementary with some classmates. I wish I could remember who was in our group, but it may have been some nearby neighbors like Sherry Traylor, Jo Beth Barkley or Sue Ann Yeargain. The date was October 24, 1956, a comfortable autumn afternoon, when we heard a huge crash and looked up. Two planes had collided in the air above the Permian Estates. Suddenly airplane parts and body parts began to fall around us! I dashed home, across Thomason Drive, up Howard Drive, yelling to my sister that their had been an explosion and I was going to look around. No policemen or fire trucks had arrived yet, but groups of children wondered around the 7 block area. Later we would learn the military jet, containing an instructor and student pilot, were on a training mission from Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring. The Cessna carried a father, mother, infant, and parents of the mother. All 7 passengers died.
When I arrived at Univ. of Texas, fall of 1964, I repeatedly heard the expression “Midland people – you could stir ‘Em with a stick.” Of course at first, I thought this was an insult. But now, I understand it completely and consider it a compliment.
Midland people are brave, strong, outgoing, loyal, adventurous, accomplished, kind, spirited and unique. We all share those qualities. So yes, it is quite a compliment to say ” we are all stirred by the same stick.”
Well, the funniest thing is I think those who went to Lee think I graduated from Midland and those who graduated from Midland think I graduated from Lee since that was the year Lee opened.
Actually, my junior year, my Dad went to work for Husky Oil and we moved to Denver where I graduated from HS, then went to Oklahoma State and transferred to El Paso my junior year in college. I ended up graduating from UTEP in ‘68.
Arrived pre-school age in Midland first in 1949, with my geologist dad (Magnolia Oil Company in those days, with “Pegasus”, its flying red horse) moving us from Illinois to a red-brick duplex on Nobles Street, not far from Big Spring Avenue, Johnny Henderson’s grocery and the Spudnut shop next door.
Dad ordered an FHA financed house to be built by James Chestnut’s dad a bit further west on Nobles (616) closer to the “A” Street Park. That house backed up to the cemetery (spooky) and its dirt alley was a great place to find horned toads, jump away from rattle snakes and chase blowing tumbleweeds. Started first grade there (North Elementary) and lasted through some of the fourth – with a big interruption of budding friendships in the middle. (Explains why most of you did not know me in those years.)
I was 4/5 years old (1949) when we moved to Midland from Silver City, New Mexico. My mother, brother, and I were all born in Silver. My father was in charge of the silver mine in the town of Vanadium, a mining town of about 20 houses and about 15 minutes from Silver City. He moved there after college graduation with US Smelting, Refining and Mining and married my mother. Our move to Midland began my father ‘s career in the oil business. I am pretty sure that my mother cried for the first year that we lived there. She thought we had moved to the flattest, most desolate place possible. The heat was unbearable and the dust storms continually filled the house with sand. We had neighbors to the east but the west was a sea of vacant lots filled with tumbleweeds that always blew into our cinderblock fence.
We lived at 1909 Michigan and it was always hot most of the year. Where our driveway ended the vacant lots seemed to go on forever. My mother and father were campers and outdoor people so they cautioned us to not roam in the vacant lots as rattlesnakes had been found there. They told us if we ever heard a rattle to freeze and not move. I think I was six and my brother and I went out to play in the neighborhood—probably barefooted. I heard the rattle as I went out the back gate. I froze, looked down, and saw the snake coiled in front of me. My brother got my mother and she killed it with a hoe. I will never know how I was not so traumatized that I never went outside again.
Looking back on my childhood in Midland, the thing that first comes to mind is the freedom to be independent and to experience life as it happened. I certainly had rules and expectations that I would hopefully follow them. The rules changed as I grew older and they were always there to help me get older—not always the way I saw them. The independence part came early—even before we started 1st grade. It was leaving the house in early morning, roaming the neighborhood until lunch, leaving again and coming home for dinner. There was no one organizing the games we played. Imaginations ran wild and the only limits were to try not break the few rules. The 50’s and 60’s in Midland gave us an ideal time to grow up. There were not the frantic times of today–no TV, no cell phones, and a slower way of life. I must really be old now as I am beginning to hear myself say what my parents used to say to me when I was 30. I thought they had become senile.
By: Gary Durossette (class of 63) and Gana Shriver Durossette (class of 66)
Gary : Alamo,MHS,LHS
Sports : LHS golf team Junior & senior years
College : Texas Tech BBA Marketing(John Franklin was roommate)
Military : US Air Force
Career : Oil & Gas business
Gary : I moved to Midland for my 9th grade and attended Alamo Jr. High. My father was employed by Halliburton as a petroleum engineer and his job responsibilities required us to move every year for the first eight years of my school life. This simply means that I had to attend a different school in a different town from the age of six until fifteen. Each town and school seemed larger and more imposing than the last. Friendships were difficult to make because why bother, I would only be there a short time. Then the move to Midland was next in line. Imagine my surprise when we stayed for several years and I learned early that my classmates and pals knew everyone else. I thought that all kids in an oilfield environment moved as I had done and we would all be on equal footing, not so, but also not difficult to fit in. I would seek out another newest kid in class and compare stories of each other’s live before Midland and then, before I knew it, I had my own list of friends, albeit not quite as long a list as those born and raised in west Texas but, none the less, a start. I now to this day call my friends from Midland my best friends and we stay in close touch.