Every once in a while, but less frequently lately, I read or hear something about the oil camps. Oil camps in the U.S. were built in remote fields where little, if any, social or economic infrastructure existed. Their make up ranged from a full-service city to a plot of a few houses. I grew up, partially, in a small oil camp three miles outside Iraan, Texas. The camp abutted the huge and prolific Yates field, which is still in production. The town of Iraan was named for ranchers Ira and Ann Yates whose ranch sat atop the Yates field. Growing up in the early 1950s in an oil camp miles from the nearest large city (10,000 population or more was large to us) had its moments. The camp, a Gulf Oil Company production camp, was comprised of two rows of houses facing each other over a single street. At one end stood the company warehouse and at the other, the company field office. The houses had been moved to the camp from a similar camp near Burkburnett and dated from a 1920s oil boom there. Although they housed families, they were designed as gang houses composed of a common room followed by a couple of bedrooms placed end to end (in other words, the house was only one room wide), then a kitchen and, finally, a bathroom/back porch combo. Each room had its own exterior door, much like the house from the Texon camp pictured here. Hot water, and heat, came from field gas. Scorpions, poisonous spiders and poisonous snakes were fairly common, so common in fact that we gave them little thought save for a back -of-the-mind wariness. There were several kids in the camp. In a way, every mother was a mother to all of us. That made it tough growing up because there was always a set of parental eyes on you. Consequently, we were almost always in some kind of trouble. My worst, and most frequent, transgression was slipping through the piping and hiding under cattle guards to watch cars and trucks pass overhead. I couldn't explain the fascination today, but it was high style back then. We had little in the way of entertainment. We occasionally drove the 50 or so miles to see a movie. On truly lucky weekends, the local oilfield supply store secured a movie which was projected on the side of their two-story building to a crowd assembled in lawn chairs on a near by lot. Otherwise, it was pretty much rock throwing wars, foot races and other such juvenile foolishness. Had we lived in the big camp at Texon, oh how different things might have been. It was a metropolis. Built between 1924 and 1926 by the Big Lake Oil Company (BLOC) to house its employees and their families, the camp counted 1,200 residents by 1933. According to The Handbook of Texas Online (www.tshaonline.org), the BLOC provided a grade school, church, hospital, theater, golf course, tennis courts and a swimming pool for the camp. BLOC president Levi Smith was an avid baseball fan and sponsored the Texon Oilers, a semi-professional baseball team. The camp also housed commercial ventures including a drug store, a cafe, a boarding house, a tailor shop, dry-goods store, grocery store, barber and beauty shops, a service station, a dairy, an ice house and a bowling alley. That's a far cry from our 10 house outpost in deep West Texas. Still, I am guessing that they did not have a lot more fun than us. If you grew up in an oil camp, or know someone who did and passed on some stories, please let me know at wpike@hartenergy.com. Bill Photo by TexasEscapes.com