The following is a
chronological compilation of events affecting Phillips, Texas -- the town, the schools,
and the churches that made up the vital interrelated core of the community. At
least one item is listed for each year from 1926 - 1990, the 65-year period that
spanned the rise and fall of the “Phillipian Empire”, if it may be labeled as
Until the 1960’s Phillips, Texas was an independent, self-sufficient and self-contained community. In the name of inexorable progress, things began to change during the 1960's -- the town’s population and the school’s enrollment figures began to decline and continued to do so through the 1970's, almost as symmetrically as it had grown during the 1930’s and ‘40’s. Attrition was attributable to several factors. First, houses in Phillips, but not the land beneath them, were sold to employees in 1957 which meant former employees and/or spouses could retire and continue to live in Phillips as smaller families of couples or singles. Second, the burgeoning town of Fritch built its own high school which significantly diminished enrollment at Phillips High School. Third, automation at Phillips Petroleum Company became the byword, and the town began to feel the effects of frequent employment cutbacks and layoffs at the plants. Fourth, the highway between Phillips and Borger was modernized and widened to four lanes which meant that Phillips residents began to trade more frequently with stores in Borger. Several stores and businesses in Phillips either closed or relocated to Borger, Sutphen’s BBQ Pit notwithstanding. However, Phillips the town and its schools remained a vital and viable force despite the occasional setbacks that foreshadowed the future.
The unexpected coup de grâce -- the big explosion of January 20, 1980 -- rocked the town literally and figuratively. The explosion eventually (6 years of resistance, competition for land ownership, legal wrangling, etc.) resulted in the unpopular eviction notices by the company, the mass exodus of the town’s populace, and the demise of the town and the school. Phillips Petroleum Company, builder and supporter of the town, ironically was the town’s judge and executioner due to economic pressures, safety considerations of the times, and newer management within the company which had no or few ties with or loyalty to the town.
Although Phillips -- the town, the schools, and the churches -- is of the past, there are countless fond and precious memories that remain indelibly etched in the minds of former Phillips residents. These memories cannot be taken away nor can the fierce and proud Blackhawk spirit that still lives! As we accomodate to a much bigger world, we realize all the more just how privileged and fortunate we were to have been raised and to have lived in the unique town of Phillips, Texas. The Phillips Heritage Center, located in Stinnett, Texas, stands today as a firm testimony and vivid reminder that such an ideal town and school did exist.
Author's note: Please contact me at phillipsblackhawks_AT_yahoo.com with corrections and/or additions. Data is based on the information on hand and may be subject to error.
Tommy Birch (Class of ‘61)
1926 As a result of the oil
boom which started in March, the little town that eventually became Phillips was
founded, named after Frank Phillips, the founder of Phillips Petroleum Company (PPC).
The town was a merger of two drilling camps: Phillips Camp and Whittenburg
Camp. The word “camp” was a tag that seemed to stick with the town as late as
1927 For the
1927-1928 school year, the junior and senior students of the Phillips
Independent School District went to Borger; the freshmen and sophomores remained
in the Phillips school.
discontinued two grades of high school, sending all of its high school students
to Stinnett for the fall semester, and to Plemons for the following spring
Fire destroyed the hospital.
1930 The First Baptist Church was built at the end of Pantex Street in Old Phillips. The building later became the Frank Phillips Men's Club after the new church was built across from the park in 1948.
A deputy sheriff was killed at the Alamo Cafe in Phillips in an
effort to disarm a disgruntled Phillips employee.
1932 A new auditorium and basement was added to the First Baptist Church building.1933 Heavy dust storms played havoc with the school and the town residents’ homes. The adverse effects of the Depression began to impact the company and the town.
After only four months of construction, one hundred new homes were
completed at Phillips west of the railroad tracks. The shotgun-styled houses
rented for $6/month for a 3-bedroom home and $8/month for a 4-bedroom home. New
housing plans then began for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Streets residential area.
The first high school football game was played against the Pampa Gorillas (B-team) which Phillips won 21 to 6. The original football field was located at 2nd Street and B Avenue. The team averaged 151 lbs per man and was originally called the Phillips Gushers (oil term); however the team voted to be called the Blackhawks. Orange and black team colors were chosen from the colors of Phillips 66 emblem.
An old 30' by 115' boarding house was remodeled and became the Phillips Hospital (the birthplace of many an ex-student) and eventually the Phillips Community Hall.
The first “black duster”, a suffocating black wall of dust, engulfed the town in total darkness with 50 mph winds.
The Seniors of ‘36 were the first PHS graduates.
Baseball team won top honors.
Residents voted to change the town’s name from Whittenburg to Phillips. Phillips’ first postmaster was appointed.
R.E. Vaughn became Phillips ISD superintendent and K. Kendrick became
principal. Chesty Walker was hired as the head football coach.
The Blackhawk football team went undefeated and won the school’s first regional title under Coach Walker. Regional was as far as a team could advance until 1948 after which participation in the state championship was permitted.
The grade school cafeteria was built and opened. Prices charged were: soup - 5 cents, sliced beef - 10 cents, and vegetables - 7 cents each. Or a complete meal including drink was 20 cents. Or a monthly meal ticket cost $3.00.
A fire closed the Phillips Theater in Old Phillips.
First PPC scholarships were awarded to eligible seniors.
The new $20,000 Phillips Elementary School was opened,
just in time, as the old red brick grade school had just burned down the
previous December along with the equipment to be transferred.
The last PHS girls' basketball team--then called the Phillipettes -- to play, as this sports program was suspended for what would turn out to be 30 years (see 1972).
The football team’s amazing record of 34 consecutive wins came to an end as Phillips lost a heart breaking 0 - 0 tie bi-district game to Hereford on penetrations 3 to 2.
The PHS Student Council was first established. 1943 The 12th grade was added this school year at Phillips. Before, elementary school consisted of grades 1 - 7 and high school was grades 8 - 11. Mildred McGee became the elementary school principal.
PPC hired some Native Americans to work at the plant, but they all quit, fled town, and returned to the reservation after one of Phillips’ infamous plant fires occurred. 1944 Philtex Plant began operations manufacturing high-purity hydrocarbons.
The first Phillips Free Fair was held on the Phillips school playground just west of Blackhawk Stadium.
The new hospital was opened on Addinsell Street.
Mr. Kendrick became the superintendent of Phillips ISD. Mr. J.I. Kimmins,
who began teaching and coaching at PHS in 1939, became the principal and served
for 33 years. Between 52 and 84 percent of PHS graduates went on to attend
college or vocational school each year during his tenure as principal.
Lee Johnson became the new superintendent of Phillips ISD.
Jolly Drug Store opened for business in “Old” Phillips.
Phillips population was estimated to be a little over 4000.
PHS had their first girls volleyball team under the helm of Coach Freda Shuttlesworth.
The boys track team program became eligible to advance beyond the district playoff.
The new high school gym was constructed. Blackhawk
Stadium was remodeled with a press box and a visitors bleachers section. A new
wing was added to the elementary school; San Lee Hall and the teachers'
apartments were completed.
Sutphen’s BBQ Pit opened for business in Phillips.
The girls volleyball team had their first undefeated season (24-0) as they won district - as far as one could advance.
In track Tommy Moore set a state record for the 440-yard dash, .the first Phillips’ athlete to do so.
The huge Unit 29 catcracker that dominates the skyline
of the Phillips plants was constructed and placed into operation at the
The boys track team placed 2nd at the state meet.
The first exes homecoming in the school’s history was held. This annual event was first sponsored by the Student Council but was soon taken over by a very active alumni association who still plan and put on this function today.
TV fever spread through Phillips as an Amarillo station
flashed its first test patterns over the air.
The first conference of the Top O’ Texas District Council Meeting was held at PHS.
Cut-Rate Grocery moved to the former Ostrom’s site.
The Phillips High School choir won contest sweepstakes and was named the outstanding choir at Enid Tri-Sate Music Festival.
The town’s population reached a peak of over 4500
The boys basketball team was the runner-up state finalist in Class AA for the first time in the school’s history. They lost a squeaker by 2 points to Jacksonville, 68 - 70.
PPC allowed many of the town’s residents to buy the
company houses, but Phillips still owned and leased the land. The new
homeowners did most of the remodeling of their houses themselves.
By 1958 Bunavista, Phillips, and Borger became commonly referred to as the Tri-City area.
The girls volleyball team repeated as the Class AAA state champions.
The Frank Phillips Men's Club softball team won the state fast-pitch softball championship.
1959 The Phillips Blackhawk marching band was invited and participated in the New Years parade and the University of Texas-Syracuse University Cotton Bowl game in Dallas.
Jesse Williams placed first in the Class AAA high hurdles event for the Blackhawk track team.
Phillips lost for the first time ever to Dumas in football.
1960 In the spring of 1960 there was a bad omen that set the stage for things to come: PPC served eviction notices to several homeowners west of the railroad tracks which resulted by the summer’s end in the elimination of Bunkhouse Street and half of Pantex and Ryan Streets. Most of the affected residents relocated within Phillips, so there was little effect on the school.
Ona Lee Hedrick won the girls tennis singles Class AAA state finals championship. Having also been the salutatorian of her senior class, she thus deserves to be called the school’s first outstanding athlete-scholar.
1960 census had the town’s population at 3600.
This year graduated the largest (year-in and year-out)
class ever at PHS. The Class of ‘61 had 165 members as freshmen, 157 as
sophomores, 137 as juniors, and 118 as seniors.
The Phillips Youth Baseball League was organized with four teams. Little League baseball in Phillips had its roots dating back to the coaching days of Cecil George at Garrett Field on Second Street.
The girls volleyball team was crowned the Class AAA
state champions for the 3rd consecutive year. This was the 5th title in the
last 7 years and the last one for the Blackhawks under Coach Freda Shuttlesworth,
who resigned as coach after 17 seasons.
An all time record 28-inch snowfall blanketed the town of Phillips in March.
The boys basketball team advanced to the semi-finals
before losing at Austin. The Hawks finished with an outstanding 30-5 record,
the only Phillips boys team to reach 30 victories in a season.
The girls volleyball team captured another state championship title, this time in Class AA.
officiating at the Phillips-Plano semi-finals playoff football game in all
probability cost the Blackhawks ( a 15-to-13 loss) the Class AA state
championship. Plano went on to easily win the state finals. The Plano head
coach later remarked that the referees just gave his team the victory on several
bad calls against Phillips, and conceded that Phillips was the better team and
deserved the game.
Blackhawk Stadium was renamed H.C. Walker Stadium after ex-coach Chesty Walker, who had earlier that year passed away.
Ray Robbins retired as the school’s band director after leading the Blackhawk band to sweepstakes at Enid Tri-State Music Festival for 20 straight years during his 21 years at PHS. He was posthumously inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 1991.
Five other teachers retired with a combined 116 years of tenure: Vera Haren, Catherine Wheeler, Violet Sparks, Gertie Mills, and Jesse Williams.
Four more teachers, who together amassed 83 years of tenure at PHS, retired: Eulyn Dynes, Helen Lively, Lellah Adkins, and Marian Patman.
The girls continued to dominate Class AA in volleyball as they bagged another state championship title.
The Class of ‘70 dedicated their yearbook theme to the
first manned landing on the moon commemorating the historic occasion of July
The girls volleyball team did it one final time -- they won another Class AA state championship title and trophy! In all, Phillips girls volleyball team won the state championship 9 times (1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1969, and 1971)!
1972 The girls basketball program was reinstated at PHS after a 30-year hiatus. Girls volleyball was dropped after 1975 because it competed head-on with basketball for the same talent pool at the same time.1973 San Lee Hall, the teachers apartment complex that was located directly west of the Methodist Church, was evacuated and then torn down.
A new $300,000 indoor activity center located between
the grade school gym and the swimming pool was built for the Phillips schools
and became the site for all future basketball games.
Cody Fondren retired from the superintendent’s job after 19 years. Don Blankenship was named as superintendent of Phillips ISD.
1976 The girls basketball team, known as the Hawkettes, were not to be denied and won the Class AA state basketball championship as they handily defeated Bellville 83 to 69.1977 The Hawkettes basketball team fell just short of repeating as state champs as they lost a close game in the finals at Austin.
Phillips Pet. Co. sent eviction notices to 159 families
living west of the tracks and north of the park to move their houses.
January 20th, on a cold and snowy Sunday morning, a
huge explosion at the Refinery rocked the town and severely damaged the
businesses, the schools, the churches, and most of the homes. 1200 broken
windows in the Phillips schools had to be replaced. The explosion forced 317
families to leave by year’s end, a loss in population of about 1600 persons.
This was the beginning of the inevitable end of the town and school.
Phillips First Methodist voted to join with Bunavista Methodist in constructing a new church building in Bunavista. Later in the year Phillips First Baptist followed suit in deciding to join with Bunavista Baptist.
Karen McClure made school history by becoming the first Phillips student to win the state competition in typing.
Data processing and computer programming were added to the curriculum at the high school.
Because of the town’s diminishing population, PHS was reclassified to Class A after the 1982 school year.
The Methodist Church building was razed.
The town’s population dropped to an estimated 1500 people.
A dual news release occurred in August. First, PPC
announced plans for the removal of the remaining 68 homes on Phillips Avenue.
On the heels of that announcement came the unexpected eviction letters from
Whittenburg M & M Cattle Company that were sent to the other 415 homeowners in
Phillips who lived on First, Second, and Third Streets, Coble Lease, and Sunset
Heights. The Whittenburgs unexpectedly sold the 140 acres of leased land on
which Phillips houses stood to PPC (instead of to the homeowners who were
trying to buy the land). This transaction left PPC as the sole landlord of
Phillips by the year’s end.
The population of Phillips dwindled to 800.
1987 The last senior class, 18 strong, graduated from Phillips High School. The town of Phillips decided to consolidate with Stinnett and Plemons to form a new PSP school district. Phillips High School unceremoniously closed its doors, though kindergarten through 5th grade continued to remain open for school the next two years. Phillips Elementary became known as the South Campus.1988 The Phillips Free Fair, sponsored by the Lions Club for the past 45 consecutive years, was held for the last time on the former Phillips school playgrounds.
After four years in the courts, the Phillips
homeowners’ class action suit to remain in Phillips was finally denied by a
federal district judge who ruled that all the remaining 50 homes must be moved
out of town by August. Sixty-four years of history quietly and sadly came to an
end as PHILLIPS OFFICIALLY CEASED TO EXIST as a town.
The former school buildings became offices for PPC and their contractor firms. The Activity Building remains as an employee recreational facilty. The football scoreboard was moved to the WTHS football field where it was repainted and is still used today. The football field is vacant and gone to seed as the grass was transplanted to the Plemons field. Only the old bathrooms and the home bleachers (minus the press box) are still there, though badly dilapidated. The former Phillips swimming pool facility was filled in with dirt and its surrounding fences removed. Most traces of the residential streets have vanished. There remains very little visible evidence that a thriving town and community ever existed.