“In my little town I grew up believing God keeps his eye on us all
And He used to lean upon me As I pledged allegiance to the wall
Lord, I recall My little town …. Everything’s the same Back in my little town Nothing but the dead and dying Back in my little town” Simon and Garfunkel
Years ago I wrote a piece called, Home of Quaker State, Pennzoil and Me, a post that I wrote late at night and it took only minutes to write. It turned out to be a very popular post to my surprise.
I had thought to rework it and repost, but after reading it once more, I knew it did not need any changes.
I grew up in Oil City, Pennsylvania. It was my home for nineteen years. I married three weeks before my twentieth birthday. I never thought I would leave, I never really wanted to.
In it’s prime, Oil City was a bustling city filled with oil refineries, steel mills and businesses. The downtown area provided many stores to shop and browse. There were lunch counters in many of the stores. Lemonblend was served at Thrift drugs, Woolworths had the best hot fudge sundaes, Kressges had cheap sub sandwiches they were just around a dollar, if I remember correctly.
At one point the world wide oil prices were set in our little town. Former mansions of the oil barons still stand today.
It was a wonderful place to grow up. Children were given roots and wings. Most of my generation left town. As we grew jobs became scarce. I was one of the migrating generation. Pennzoil left for Texas in the 60’s. Quaker State was there much longer, but eventually left for Texas also. When we lived in Japan, Dale and I would head to the auto section of the exchange to pick up a can of oil. Not to buy it, but to look at the label and see, ‘Refined in Oil City, PA’. We held home, we held our heritage.
As the years passed the refineries closed. Steel mills followed. The downtown died leaving empty buildings with no care. Yet the river still flowed through the town, and Oil Creek still meets up with the river.
A remnant still remains. They are faithful, consistent, strong. I used to think that only the old people stayed, it turns out those old people are those I went to school with.
We visit, not as often as we have in the past. Anyone who we are related to are now in other cities or their bones are resting in the cemeteries.
Yes, this is all bleak. But, looking below the surface of the tiredness of the town are memories. Echoes of laughter spill out from the old playgrounds and the park. The place where I held a boys hand for the first time still is there. The place of my first kiss is right by the coffee shop.
We drive through town, knowing which lane to get into, knowing what street connects with another, recognizing destinations that were once places where we went in high school. I can look anywhere and people and experiences flood my mind. It is familiar, it is my hometown.
I would not change anything. I know had I stayed there, had we not married, had Dale not joined the Navy, everything would be different. But the Lord. How many times have I said this. My life was created by God. He gave me to my parents and to my sisters. There was a divine purpose in me.
The love of my hometown, gave me a respect for anywhere I have lived since. I grew roots. I was established in the roads and places in Oil City. I grew into who I am today. The memories serve to remind me of who and what I am. The legacy of those who came before me resonate in Oil City. The history defines me.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV) This is true for me, for you, and for that little town.