From Hutchinson County Highlights May 2010:
GENEALOGY IS FUN
By Cleo Morrison
Editor's Note: Diana Blackmon Berry, a Hutchinson County native, presented
program about the demise of the Phillips Community 1926-1986 at the Hutchinson
County Genealogy Society meeting. Cleo Morrison, who writes Genealogy Is Fun, a
monthly column, wanted to share it with readers of
HutchinsonCountyHighlights.com and has separated the story in three parts. It
will run through Saturday, May 6-8, 2010, and will take many readers down
memory lane as she tells how her mother Shirley, the widow of former Hutchinson
County Sheriff Lon Blackmon, remembered Phillips as she was raised as a child in
the community which is now gone.
By Diana Blackmon Berry
Genealogy is defined in the dictionary: 1) an account of a decent of a person,
family or group from an ancestor or from older forms. 2) An account of the
origin and historical development of something. In Indian folklore, it was the
“shaman” that kept the oral history of their tribe and lands.
As we all know getting older is just a fact of life. None of us can avoid it.
However going back in time reminiscing about people and places is something that
anyone at almost any age can do. This is what I did with my mom. I asked her
what brought her family to Borger and she said because of the oil boom. She then
began to talk about her and her sisters growing up in the community of Phillips,
Texas in the early 40’s.
She described Phillips as a: Community unto itself” with most families living in
company housing. There was Old Phillips and New Phillips as well as Sunset
Heights and Johnson Camp (there were probably more). Mom said “You didn’t have
to go to Borger in order to get the things you needed”. The company and the
community supported all the businesses. There were churches, grocery stores (Ostrom’s
and Mr. Goodwin’s), 66 movie theatre, a drug store (Tom and John’s) later called
Jolly Drug, a barber shop and a beauty shop (Eva’s_, 66 dry cleaners, service
stations, a hospital and their doctor was Dr. Brooks, a five and dime store,
cafes and restaurants, one being Sutphen’s, a post office, a school and a
swimming pool, bus transportation, fire department and a beer joint to name a
Let’s go back to the beginning of what we know as Phillips, Texas. From my
research it began as a company camp built to provide housing for employees of
Phillips Petroleum Company when they started construction of the first plant in
1927. Early in 1926, after oil was discovered in Hutchinson County, James A.
Whittenburg sought to cash in on the oil boom by founding a community in his
name. Soon the community had a next-door rival in the community of Pantex. By
1938 the Whittenburg/Pantex Camps were renamed Phillips because of its primary
industry. This was done by a vote of the people.
Mom’s family lived in several company houses in Phillips. She remembers, as a
child running with her mother and sisters to the canyons and up the other side
when there was an explosion at one of the plants; they had to wait for the
all-clear whistle before being allowed to go home.
With the growth of Phillips came the schools. The first term for Phillips School
ended May of 1927. The first teachers taught in a red brick building with a
white annex building.
With Phillips’ continued growth, the school could not accommodate all school-age
students, In 1928-1929 some students had to travel to Stinnett by bus for the
first semester and the were bussed to Plemons for the second semester.
In ’29, fifty high school students enrolled in Borger High School. In 1935 a new
$77,000 school building replaced the brick structure. The teachers were paid
$25.00 more than most teachers in the area. Not all teachers had degrees during
the early years but most returned to school and earned degrees.
Approximately 14 teachers lived in the teacherages across from the school. They
hired a cook and housekeeper, but the teachers were responsible for the weekly
menus and buying food for the week. The teachers shared the expenses at the end
of the month. Strict moral standards were expected from all school personnel.
Teachers were not allowed to marry the first year, however, several did and kept
By the next year, the school board relaxed this rule. By 1946 teacher housing
was a problem Phillips had to face. The new teacherage was located north of the
high school. It provided housing for single women according to tenure. Housing
was available to married teachers as well as the superintendent, coach and
On Saturday March 19, 1950 the school was destroyed by fire. Not one class was
missed due to the fire. Classes were held in the Baptist and Methodist Churches.
In May 1952 the new school was ready for classes. Phillips school ended with the
1978 graduating class.
I read an amusing story about a male teacher who had some friends over one
evening to play cards. A school board member happened to drop by his house an
observed the card playing. The next day the teacher was severely reprimanded for
his lax moral behavior.
The Phillips community that Mom remembers no longer exists except in her
memories and the stories that she tells. In the 50s and 60s improved highways
and faster transportation resulted in the loss of Phillip’ businesses to the
nearby community of Borger.
The thing I remember most about the Phillips community was the Phillips Free
Fair and the rivalry between the Phillips Blackhawks and the Stinnett Rattlers.
I never saw Phillips as my mother did…as a self-sufficient and independent
community with 4,000 residents.
An explosion that occurred on January 20, 1980, caused millions of dollars worth
of damages to the plant, homes and businesses resulting in the final demise of
Phillips, the community. All homes and residents were gone by December 31 1986.
**** I have read another view for the demise of Phillips, the community. It
seems with the death of Mr. Whittenburg who owned the land the community sat on,
there was a clause in his will stating that the property that the community sat
on could no be sold without the approval if its citizens. The Whittenburg
children went to court to change the will so that the land could be sold to
Phillips Petroleum Company. Once Phillips bought the land the evictions started.
The citizens fought back by hiring an attorney F. Lee Bailey. The injunctions
staved off the evictions for only six months. The land was sold and the
community I now a ghost town.
With the closing of the schools, homes being moved out, and anything left was
bulldozed. This left room for Phillips expansion. The school building is now
used for offices, the football field house for storage.
You can’t go into Phillips to drive the streets and reminisce because of all the
security. Memories and a few written words are all that is left in Phillips. You
can drive through Beverly Hills, Bunavista, Fritch and Stinnett to see company
houses, but it isn’t the same.
The following list of questions is the third and final installment of the
program Diana Berry recently gave to the Hutchinson County Genealogy
organization regarding the former Phillips community.
Do You Remember?
1) The name of the first Phillips Football Team?
2) What two early communities formed Phillips?
3) How many business can you name that were in Phillips, Texas?
4) What was the housing called where the schoolteachers lived?
5) What was the name of the First Refinery built in Phillips?
6) Name some doctors that were in practice in Phillips
7) Name the Phillips girl that became an actress?
8) Name at least two restaurants in Phillips?
9) What was the name of the plant that merged with the Alamo to become NGL?
10) What coach’s name was given to the Blackhawk Football Stadium?
11) Name the Dry Cleaners?
12) Name one of the theaters?
1) Phillips Gushers
2) Pantex and Whittenburg
3)Ostrom’s and Goodwin’s Grocery Stores
5) The Alamo
6) Drs. Brooks, Hamra and Smith
7)Mary Ann Noblett. Her screen name was Mary Castle and she was signed by
Columbia Studio. She was a good double for Rita Hayworth
8)White Way and Sutphen’s
10) Chesty Walker
11) 66 Cleaners
12) 66 Theatre
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updated: 24 May 2010