Have Courage – It Has Happened Before & Will Happen Again
Oh Honey! You hit the nail on the head!!! In the mid-80’s, we lived in Midland, Texas. PEOPLE magazine did a story on Midland 3 years prior about the economy in Midland, Texas concerning the fact there was more money per capita than anywhere else in the United States. There were more Mercedes, private jets and boats per capita. ( and the closest water was over 100 miles away!) We were ‘Yuppies’ and my oldest daughter attended the same private preschool as George Bush’s twins…
There was nothing in Midland and Odessa (an area known as the Permian Basin) but oil and money. Midland was known as the ‘Tall City’ because of all the tall oil business buildings. Odessa ( where ‘Friday Night Lights’ was based on the Permian Panthers from Permian High School ) was more the blue collar population. It was flat and it was ugly, but there was plenty of money. I worked as an interior designer. Many times, I would not discuss money with the client. That was ‘tacky.’ I just billed the bank and the bank payed their bills.
At that time, we did not have inter-state banking in Texas. They wanted to keep all the money there. The largest independently owned bank in Texas was Midland First National Bank. When the price of oil started dropping, rumors of the possible failure of the bank were everywhere. The Midland Chamber of Commerce held a pep rally, just like in high school, complete with bands and speeches, assuring everyone that the bank was solid and not to panic. Within 3 weeks, a meeting was called at 6 PM for all bank employees. The FDIC had moved in 300+ people overnight and shut the bank down. As if that wasn’t enough, it was just the start of the story. Everybody understands the power of the Internal Revenue Department. NO ONE understands the power of the FDIC. ( Otherwise commonly referred to by the locals as the FA DICKS.) They called in everyone who had a loan at Midland First National Bank. As they reviewed your file, it was noted whether or not you had money in CD’s, etc. at the bank. If you agreed to cash in your investments against the note, they would keep you. If you didn’t, you note was due and payable right then! This sent many scrambling to the other banks in the area to seek funding. Of course, this created an overload of debt on the other banks, as they too had people defaulting on previous loans, and within the next two years, every bank in the Midland Odessa area fell at least once. Companies were folding because the economy was based on oil. The price of oil had dipped so that there were no profits.
The guy who lived across the street from us had been with Exxon as a petroleum engineer for 18 years. He went to work at 8 and was home by 9, without a job. The guy who lived behind us had been with Gulf Oil Company as a geologist for 22 years, same story. One of the stories that I heard about was a company that invited its 650 person work force downtown for lunch at the Hilton. As they went through the buffet line and picked up their plates, they had no idea what they were really doing. For you see, on the back of the plates was a number. Your number determined if you had a job after the lunch or you didn’t. The company decreased to less than 100 employees that day. As people left, there was a bowl available for the unemployed to drop their company car keys. They had to find a ride home. With the community being skilled oil people, there wasn’t available jobs for them. Think about it. What does a geologist or a petroleum engineer do when drilling stops? Houses for sale were a dime a dozen. You couldn’t drive a block without seeing 4-5 houses for sale. I learned you can gauge an area’s economy by U-Hauls. There was a 6 MONTH waiting list to get a U-Haul out of Midland, Texas. The U-Hauls were headed out of town and none were headed in. ( This information was reported on the national news.)
SO . . . what do you do? It costs money to send resumes, faxes, and for printing. Anyone could go to the area churches and get these services FREE of charge. Public service announcements ran constantly about “Do not commit suicide. Call this number. . .” My husband drove an old beat up pickup to California and stayed with my sister and her husband to find work. He was able to get a minimum wage job, but at least it was money. I stayed in Texas while they were foreclosing on our house. They had cut my telephone and my cable. The day my husband left, I had $18.32 to my name with three ( 5 and under ) children to feed. I learned how to water down my children’s milk. We went from 2 vegetables to 1 for meals. I realized that the children really to wanted to go to McDonald’s to play on the playground and not for the happy meals. So I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and away we went. I would buy one small drink with free refills that we all would drink from. I reasoned that if I purchased at least 1 thing, they couldn’t throw us out! I continued to try to sell our home. I ran an ad in the local paper saying, “Desperate Woman in Desperate Situation takes Desperate Action.” We had purchased this ‘in need’ house and had totally redone it. It was 2200 square feet, corner lot, two fireplaces, a 20 x 30 pool in the back yard with all new plumbing and electrical. We had knocked out a ceiling, put double ovens in, etc. We had bought the home for $72,000. The highest offer I received was $52,000.
It was a very dark time in our lives, but that’s when you learn who your friends are and what are the most important things of life. Jerri Sloan had heard we were in trouble. I had worked at a furniture store she and her husband had owned. She came to the house and asked what she could do. I continued my mantra that, ” We are fine, Jerri. Everything is fine!” After much questioning on her part, I did reveal that my husband was able to wire me some money and I had purchased some meat. As long as I received money again the next day, I would be alright. Otherwise, my electricity would be cut causing the freezer to go off and I would loose the meat I had just purchased. Jerri left after I had assured her that if I didn’t receive the money, I would contact her the next day. The doorbell rang. It was Jerri Sloan. She hugged me and handed me a receipt. Jerri had gone directly from my house to the electric company and had paid my bill in full.
Even though it has been 22 years since we moved from Texas to California, this topic is still raw in my heart. I have spoken publicly concerning the times we are living.