PHS mascot: Phillips Blackhawks

Phillips High School
Alumni Association
P.O. Box 1710, Borger TX 79008

PHS mascot: Phillips Blackhawks

 

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Twilight
A short story by Wayne Hickman PHS '60

It was a little cool this afternoon but Mary had chosen to stay outside the rest home just a little longer.  She had gotten word that morning that she was the last of the last two dozen.  Who would have thought?  She had finished high school with 23 fellow students in a fine school that had once held over 500.  It was a exceptional school that boasted the best of everything, thanks to Phillips Petroleum Company, but now it existed only in her mind.  She was the last owner of any memories concerning her Phillips High School. 

Mary’s senior year was somewhat spooky as voices echoed through the nearly empty halls.  It didn’t seem real.  This was a school that had seemed blessed in every way.  It had a great sports program, award winning music program and excellent education opportunities including superior teachers.   All this was bathed in a forgone past with no future.  

Phillips Petroleum Company had created what was called a camp town soon after a huge oil field was discovered there in 1926.  The weather in the Texas Panhandle was extremely harsh, so much so that the Indians who had previously lived there were vigorous and healthy as many germs could not survive in this environment.   Phillips needed many workers to staff a large refinery being built in this area.  To entice them Phillips offered good pay, bargain housing, health care and a good education for their children.  And come the workers did.  They were leaving hard scrabble farms and unpredictable weather.  The refinery needed them and they embraced the chance for a better life. 

As Phillips developed so did Phillips High School.  By 1947 the population of the camp town was 4,250.   Instructors were paid a premium wage and very quickly a sense of pride began to emerge.  Early on the motto surfaced.  “Only Your Best Will Satisfy.”  And giving their best was what a majority of students embraced. 

By 1961 PHS was soaring with over 100 in the senior class alone.  But clouds were beginning to gather.  Roy Whittenburg, who owned the land where the homes were built had leased the property to Phillips for 99 years to be used as home sites.  However, upon Mr. Whittenburg’s  death, his already extremely wealthy heirs began to press Phillips into shoving the residents off their property.  The 1st action was to sell the homes to the residents.  No longer was it necessary to provide generous incentives to workers as Phillips now had ample help.  In the past when a worker retired he had to move on but now he could stay put.  This resulted in no new blood coming into the town or the school.  Those with foresight took flight, including the winning football coach.  

Then in 1980 a killer explosion rocked the refinery.  Many homes were damaged and Phillips paid the bill for all repairs.  But this incident destroyed any harmony that had previously existed between the Company and the residents.  Little by little all infrastructure support was withdrawn.  Enrollment began to decline and then Phillips simply told residents to move out, 99 year lease or no.  The former supporters of the camp town were retired or had no voice.  They had probably been replaced by Harvard MBA types who considered profits more important than a mother’s love. So died a thriving and proud community and with it a school that is now only an almost empty office building.  No laughter, no music, no cheering, no sheer joy, no Friday night dances, no proms, no teams, no senior trips, no Dixon Creek, no Churches, nothing.  It’s like everything good was in a water bucket and it was poured into Dixon Creek sand where it quickly vanished.  

Phillips Petroleum Company has always taken the lion’s share of the blame for the destruction of  the town of Phillips.  While complicit, a large part of the credit must go to the Whittenburg heirs. The book about them is called The Bone Pickers,  and later released as The Midas Touch.    I hope they needed that land awfully bad.  What a shame.  What a damn shame. 

Mary was feeling very tired now.   She leaned back her head and a few tears wet her cheeks.  She was the last of the last two dozen.  She would rest now.  As she drifted away the blanket slipped from her body.  It was orange and black.

 

By:  Wayne Hickman PHS '60

      

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