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  • Writer's pictureLaura Bray

The World of "Springs"

Allow me to introduce you to the world in which I’ve set Springs from Winter Rise.

An earlier twentieth century oil rig at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore (photo credit: Laura Bray)

Texas officially entered its “oil age” on January 10, 1901 with a gusher at Spindletop, near Beaumont, Texas. Exploration continued in Texas (and across the country), with more fields coming on line in the Permian Basin (Midland/Odessa), the Panhandle, and near Wichita Falls. On October 3, 1930, “Dad” Joiner found oil on Daisy Bradford’s dairy farm near the small town of London, in east Texas, turning the nearby town of Henderson into a boomtown virtually overnight. The East Texas Oil Boom had begun.

Drillers put up derricks as quickly as they could build them. Soon, forests of wooden oil derricks replaced huge swaths of the deep pine forests of the region, overtaking timber production as the leading industry in the area (for a time, anyway). Kilgore went from a population of 800 to over 8,000 in just two weeks, as men (and some families) poured in by train, looking for work. The oil boom mitigated, to some degree, the effects of the Great Depression being felt elsewhere in the country.

Naturally, all the rapid growth led to problems—everything from muddy roads churned up by heavy oilfield equipment to gambling houses to major industrial accidents. Local communities struggled to keep pace. Outsiders poured into the rather insular area known throughout Texas as “behind the pine curtain.”

The London School District, however, reaped huge benefits. The oil royalties pouring into the district from the wells on its land made it one of the richest school districts in the nation. They embarked on an ambitious building spree, including the first lighted football stadium in Texas and a combined junior/senior high school, completed in 1932.

It’s into this world that I introduce Emily, a shy schoolgirl; Polly, who will become her teacher and friend; and others, all of whom face searing tragedy when the new school explodes on March 18, 1937. I will leave those details to my novel, or to your perusal of the internet.

That’s all she wrote…….Laura

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