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Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas

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Sept. 10, 1998

4-H status put on hold

By Genese Shorten
of the News
Members of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district board
Tuesday night, Sept. 8, tabled a plan that would have
granted 4-H Club members extracurricular status in the

Board members said they wanted to consider the issue a
little more.

Andy Stewart and Linda Russell of the Ward County Extension
Agency say they are concerned about the academic eligibility
of 4-H Club members and that 4-H club rules provide for "no
pass, no participation" comparable to the rules sanctioned
by the University Interscholastic League for students taking
part in extracurricular activities. Stewart and Russell
want the extracurricular designation for 4-H to better
monitor their members and their eligibility to take part in
4-H projects.

School Board president Johnny White isn't so sure. He says
he feels 4-H is a separate entity from the schools and he
wants to know if the school will share responsibility on the
release of grades.

Fellow board member Brook Claborn says giving
extracurricular status to 4-H "can become a complicated

Both said they did not think it was any of the school's
business what 4-H leaders and members do or do not do.

4-H leaders do not want 4-H members to take part in stock
shows and other competitions if they do not meet academic

Board member Steve Hurst says he is not comfortable with the
suggestion or another proposal that would allow Stewart and
Russell to be "adjunct" staff members to give them faculty
status to check student grades.

Board members agreed they needed to discuss the issue in
more detail with the county extension agents.

Stewart says 4-H members and their parents are aware of the
"no pass, no participation" in stock show and other events
rule. He says parents will sign validation forms if that is
required to give extracurricular status to 4-H.

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Mike Fletcher
reported to the board that the new elevator at the high
school is finished and working well. It was installed to
grant handicap access to the high school's upper floors.

A wheel chair lift for the hospital should be finished,
Fletcher reports, in the near future.

Courthouse to get elevator-plus

County Judge Sam G. Massey says more than new elevators are
coming to the Courthouse in Monahans.

The more than one million dollars in construction that
includes a tower on the East side for the new elevators has
taken most of the interest

But that interest can now be focused, he notes, on more than
difficult parking because elevator construction has forced
the closing of the East parking lot..

"The Master Gardeners are going to plant bluebonnets in the
boxes in front of the court house," says Massey. The County
judge reports the flowers will be a welcome flash of color
in county government.

Building permits top million

Boosted by more than $1 million in new construction at the
Ward County Courthouse, building permits in the city of
Monahans are almost $1.5 million ahead of the total a year
ago, according to the August Building Permit report released
by City Inspector Bobby Sinclair.

Building permits totaling $1.032 million were issued in
August for the work at the Courthouse. Workers there are in
the process of building an addition to bring the Courthouse
into full compliance with the federal Americans with
Disabilities Act. The work includes a tower on the East wall
that will provide elevators for all four levels of the
courthouse, additional floor space and handicapped
accessible rest room facilities at all four levels.

Construction began two weeks ago. The East parking lot has
been closed while work is in progress.

County Judge Sam G. Massey has noted that the County
Commissioners Court has been setting aside dollars to meet
the federal requirements without being forced

Sinclair notes the total value of building permits issued in
Monahans through August is $2,389,561 compared with $688,124
issued for the first eight months of 1997. The total value
of building permits issued in August was $1,057,150,
according to the report. The Courthouse building permit was
listed under the commercial section of permits issued where
permits issued, including the Courthouse, totaled
$1,037,400. In addition to the Courthouse work, permits
were issued in Monahans in August for $3,400 to Double D
Storage at 209 South Calvin Avenue; $1,500 for a new roof at
Beall's Department store at 1203 South Stockton Avenue and
$500 for a fence at Pitter Patter Learning Center, 707 South
Main Street. August residential building permits totaled
$19,750, including one permit for $10,000 to Phil Newell at
1805 South Allen Avenue to build a shop at a home. Newell
also was issued a $5,000 permit for an addition at the same
address. Other August permits, reports Sinclair, included:
$1,500 to Salvador Ruiz for a storage building at 910 North
Carol Avenue; $1,100 to Rodney Dugas to move a mobile home
at 805 North Bruce Avenue; $1,000 to Joe Collazo for a
walkway, patio and awning at 1802 South Bruce Avenue.

Schaefer to speak at chamber banquet

Dr. Thomas Schaefer is scheduled to speak at the September
Chamber of Commerce business luncheon on Friday, Sept. 18,
according to a statement from the Chamber.

Schaefer has a Ph.D.. from Georgetown University in
Washington D.C. and has been teaching at the university
level for about 40 years. Included in those years, he spent
time teaching in Puerto Rico and Panama. He now teaches at
the University of Texas-Permian Basin School of Business in

Schaefer is the founder of the UTPB Small Business Center
and was the director from 1986 to 1988.

He has more than 12 honors and awards for his work.
Organizations with which he has served include the Service
Corps of Retired Executives and the American Red Cross.

Schaefer also has published text books, articles and book

The Chamber statements says: "Please join us on Friday,
Sept. 18, at the Ward County Convention Center at 12 noon.
Dr. Shaefer will be presenting a program on business ethics."

City can't duck this problem

Residents of the Monahans Senior Health Center Tuesday,
Sept. 8, complained to City Council and City Manager David
Mills that they are inundated with ducks.

The ducks, they report, are coming onto the senior center
property from the city-owned affluent ponds not far from the
center on Fifteenth Street.

Mills says the center residents complained about the mess on
sidewalks for guests, visitors and employees. They also were
concerned about the danger to the ducks crossing the street
to reach the health center.

Mills responded quickly.

City workers began removing the ducks and planned to have
the duck, duck, duck problems resolved by the end of this

Mayor David Cutbirth, like Mills, was concerned about the
potential danger to both the birds and the senior citizens
who filed the complaints.

"The ducks are being taken to a safe place," says the mayor,
"where they will not be endangered by traffic and they will
not endanger citizens."

City officials note there is a large duck and geese
population by the ponds but normally they stay close to the
water's edge at the ponds.

Residents of the area around the ponds have been warned by
city officials to stop feeding the ducks and geese, some
of which are domestic gone wild and some of which are wild

Task force targets vandalism

Civic, government and law enforcement agencies plan to join
in a task force to stop a resurgence of graffiti vandalism
in Monahans and Ward County, reports County Judge Sam G.

"We've going to develop a graffiti task force," says Massey.
"I sent one kid to boot camp and that seemed to stop it for
a while. We're having a little problem again and we're going
to stop it before it gets bigger.."

So far only one building has been a major target of the new
spray-can vandalism, that one an old school on the North

Massey says the task force conference will be held at noon
on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at the Ward County Convention

"This is going to be a working conference," says Massey.
"Bring a sack lunch."

The county judge says those who will be involved include
county and city officials, the offices of County Sheriff Ben
Keele, Monahans Police, juvenile probation officers, youth
organization leaders, and clergy. Says Massey: "We need to
stop this now."

Monahans gets federal agency

Monahans has been chosen over Fort Stockton as the
headquarters city for a federally backed rural area
enhancement agency for eight Trans Pecos counties.

Darren Clark is director of the new Pecos Valley Resource
Conservation and Development District in the Ward County
seat. He is scheduled to report on Monday, Sept. 14 at the
regular meeting of the County Commissioners.

Clark notes his salary and that of a secretary is paid by
the United States Department of Agriculture. Ward County
provides office space gratis in the annex at 1900 South
Stockton Avenue.

His telephone number is 943-3888.

The office is furnished. Clark is looking for a secretary to
help run the office.

"When projects come up," says Clark. "It is my job to help
find funding whether that be from government agency or
private foundation."

"We might get $2,000," says Clark. "We might end up with a
million. It depends on the project and the circumstances."

The dollars might go for trees in Hill Park as a comparable
effort a few years ago provided or they might be for work at
the old fort in Fort Stockton, says Carter.

"This is a community organization made up of eight counties
(Reeves, Ward, Winkler, Ector, Crane, Loving, Pecos and
Terrell)," says Clark. "Government or civic leaders can
contact either myself or one of the council members."

Those members are: Judge Sam G. Massey of Ward County;
former Wink Mayor Edith Jones of Winkler; Randy Ragsdale of
Ector; Bill Hopper of Loving; Kenneth Neal of Reeves;
George Riggs of Pecos; and Bill Hamilton of Terrell. So far,
a Crane County representative has not been appointed. Crane
is not represented on the board at this moment.

"Their purpose is to get private funding for rural
communities," says Ward County Judge Sam G. Massey. "The
dollars are to finance infrastructure for rural communities
- hospitals, roads, fire department and law enforcement
equipment, communications, anything that can enhance a

Massey says Clark's office has been in place but it "finally
has been funded and we have the office established in
Monahans. We had to fight Fort Stockton to get it."

Wickett was born in 1927

Fourth of a series
Wickett, a town that boomed out of the Ward County oil rush,
officially was born on Feb. 14, 1927 just West of the Aroyo
stop on the Texas & Pacific railroad.

Five months later, Wickett had a post office, June 14,
1927, Onnie Mae O'Brien was post mistress.

By Aug. 20, 1928, Wickett opened its first school. Backed by
mineral wealth, Wickett's one-room school might well have
been one of the richest school districts for its size in
the state when it first opened its doors.

Things happened in a rush in the expanding West Texas oil

The G.W. O'Briens, husband wife and nine children had bought
the Reed Ranch in 1920, a ranch that covered parts of Ward
and Winkler counties. He leased the mineral rights to Gulf
in 1925. After drilling three dry holes, oil was discovered
at the O'Brien Number 4 Well in 1929. It was the second oil
producing area in Ward County after the Shipley Oil Co.
opened the first field in the county with a well near

Wickett's citizens believed it eventually would become the
center of the West Texas Oil Patch. They could not know then
the major development would take place many miles to the

They could not know then that less than a decade later the
older scholars would be attending classes in a new
consolidated Monahans-Wickett Independent School District.
But they would have been proud to know their school would
survive as a grade school in the consolidated era and
their school would continue to produce students and teachers
who maintained unexcelled academic standards (The Texas
Education Agency rates the Wickett School "exemplary," TEA's
highest academic designation) into the dawn of the
Twenty-First Century.

Rancher George O'Brien had started Wickett by setting aside
section 21 of his ranch for a townsite to accomodate the oil
field business that had boomed.

He gave land to Southern Crude Oil Co., which the company
used for tank farm, loading racks, offices and houses for
its employees. O'Brien named the town for Fred H. Wickett,
chair of the Pan American Petroleum and Transport Co., of
which Southern Crude was a subsidiary because there already
was a town called O'Brien in Texas.

In the days after Wickett was born, residents recall "a
never ceasing string of automobiles of every make" bringing
new citizens to the oil boom. The new town was "another
promised land." Some compared the Wickett phenomenon to the
Nineteenth Century gold and silver rushes of California and

Wickett celebrated its birth for a month and some of the new
city's fathers already were planning to make it the county
seat of Ward County which in that year remained at Barstow
where the economic base still was agriculture not West
Texas Crude.

Burton-Lingo, Win, Cameron and West Texas Lumber companies
established yards for the overnight construction of frame
shacks that blossomed in the desert. Some lived in tents.
Others used a wagon bed for a roof. A two story frame hotel
was built.

Jobs and good wages were everywhere. B.L. Wooley of Dallas
and H.B. Hassett of St. Louis built the Bluebonnet Refinery.
It turned crude into fuel oil, diesel, kerosene and
gasoline. Bluebonnet joined with the production at Southern
Crude and made Wickett a tank car shipment center for the

Civilization requires schools and civilization was bursting
out all over in Wickett. The first school was a frame house
which held grades one through high school.

According to the Ward County Historical Archives: "The first
Independent School District in Wickett began classes on Aug.
20, 1928. It was one of the richest districts of its size in
the state of Texas. The first school was a frame house which
held grades one through 12. During the first year, the new
building burned and the trustees arranged for school to be
held in a temporary building which was in the William
Cameron Lumber Yard."

Polly O'Brien Massey recalled in later years that first
school year after she and her family came to the region
from Springfield, Mo.:

"I had just finished the first semester of first grade. On
arriving in Wickett, we learned the school house was not yet
completed. . .We moved into a four-room house located
between a grocery store on one corner and a boarding house
on the other.

"The boarding house was run by a Mrs. McGeehee, who had a
daughter around 12 years old. Next door to the boarding
house was a cot house where the oil field workers slept.
Wickett was a bustling little boom town at that time. It was
quite different from the big city I had come from. The
sheriff rode around on a horse all day. The men in the cot
house would get drunk many times and get into fights with
each other, sometimes using knives. On these occasions, when
we were playing in the yard, Mother would run out and get us
into the house and lock all the doors.

"In September . . . I started to school. Since I had already
been through the first semester of the first grade, I was
more advanced than the others, so the teacher promoted me to
second grade. I remember there was a potbellied stove in the
room. When snow was on the ground and our feet got wet from
walking in it, we all took our shoes and socks off and sat
with our feet propped up on the rail around the bottom of
the stove. During the Winter, the school burned to the

That year young pupils of Wickett went from a new school
house into a lumber yard's office because the school burned
down. Nearly three-quarters of a century later, it remains a
minor mystery as to what caused it.One story said a
custodian had been burning trash near the school one night
and wind blew particles of burning waste under the school
setting it on fire and bring the whole building down.
Another says boys had thrown still warm ashes under the
front steps starting the school fire. Exactly what happened
is a matter of conjecture. This is known. Wickett's first
school burned and the academic year was finished in borrowed

Fire in the oil patch was no stranger to the 2,000 people
who worked there in Wickett.

Recalled Lynn Reynolds and David Smith:

"One time, during a thunderstorm, lightning struck an oil
tank in the East part of town. It was one loud explosion
we never forgot. It burned for over a week. Another time
lightning struck a transformer just outside our house that
sounded like we were in a war."

Another story about fires in Wickett tells how:

"Southern Crude had around fifty 50,000 barrel tanks where
they stored their oil. They loaded and sent out by rail 100
cars of oil every day.

"About the greatest disaster came when lightning struck one
of the 50,000 barrel tanks belong to Southern Crude,
igniting the oil. The blaze burned for days and nights and
was finally considered a hopeless case. Then someone came up
with a way to stop the fire and save the oil. A hole was
shot in the bottom of the tank with a cannon and the oil
drained. When the tank was emptied, the blaze no longer had
fuel to consume and died."

So much for fire, it didn't stop school at the lumber yard.

One Wickett resident recalls of those classes:.

" Mr. and Mrs. Jordan taught in two of the rooms. I think
Lona Lee Bingham taught the older kids in the upstairs room.
When I got to fifth grade, Carrie Mae Vogt (later Carrie Mae
McGlasson) came to teach. She drew a fantastic salary -
$100 a month. She roomed and boarded at the Folbres."

Two years in a lumber yard school building was more than
enough for the teachers and students of Wickett.

A new brick school house was built. The new school, to be
called Wickett Ward, was one large room with a movable
partition that could be pulled through the middle to make
two rooms. It cost $4,500 and included playground equipment
- a slide, merry-go-round and swings. There were, according
to some accounts, 150 pupils. Tradition also started with
the annual Christmas Play, a tradition that continues.

By this time, gloom and the doom, impelled by The Great
Depression, was beginning to settle in the Ward County Oil

Nine years after it started the Wickett school district
enrollment began to decline as families moved from the area
when exploration and production shut down in West Texas
because of abundant cheap oil in the new fields of East

Consolidation of Wickett and Monahans schools officially was
announced on April 1, 1937, by Major A.E. Lang,
superintendent of the Monahans school and the first
superintendent of the just established Monahans-Wickett
Independent School District.

Under the consolidation agreement, at least one resident of
Wickett would forever be a member of the board of the new
consolidated school district. A new five room building was
built after a bond issue was approved by both Wickett and
Monahans voters. It was used to build a new five room
building in Wickett. The old school became a cafeteria. In
1946, Wickett Ward had a new high school auditorium added.
At one time in the years after consolidation, Polly Massey
wrote: "Gensler had football teams and a pep squad. Games
were played against teams from Monahans. The Gensler teams
were known as the Eagles.

From an account by Polly Massey: "Housing was provided for
teachers. Some who lived there were Mr. and Mrs. Francis
Apple and Mr. and Mrs. Scofield lived there. Some of the
other early teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Jordan (Johnny
Jordan's grandparents) Carrie Mae Vogt (McClasson), Lona Lee
Bingham (Criswell), Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Reagan, Mrs. Marrs and
Mrs. Helen Gensler."

In 1953, Wickett Ward school was named Gensler in honor of
Mrs. Gensler, who had died and had taught at the school for
six years.

And the Christmas Play tradition continues. Scenery first
was used in 1968. Parents still help make the costumes.

Next: Years of Expansion

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Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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