O’field preserves oil history/holds homecoming
ORANGEFIELD — Crossing the Cow Bayou bridge on FM 105, drivers used to be able to look out and see oil derricks all around. But, over the years, hurricanes and oil companies have dwindled the number down to only two remaining.
“The old derricks are not needed anymore,” Bo Henley, a volunteer with the Orangefield Cormier Museum, said. “They are just thrown aside by companies getting to the wells.”
But, to Henley and other volunteers, the old oil derricks, one standing 120 feet high and the other 80 feet, are worth more than just what you can get for old scrap metal, as they feel that the derricks are of historical significance to the Orangefield community.
So, they are looking at having the remaining two moved to the museum property.
“We are working with the Army 808th Company out of Houston,” Henley said. “They have agreed to help us move them for free as a project for their group. We will place the smaller on the front of the museum property with our sign on it.
“The larger will be placed in the area where the parking lot Y’s between the museum and the high school campus.”
Although the move will be free, there is the cost of the foundation that will need to be built for the derricks, and for two 70-foot flagpoles that have been donated, so they are looking to raise funds.
“We are wanting to put pumpers on the foundations under the derricks, so we could be looking at around $10,000 or so,” Henley said. “The Army will be doing research into the moving of the derricks this summer, so they’ll give us a clearer picture of how much money we need once they are through. The actual moving probably won’t take place until about October.”
Another museum volunteer, Harvey Wilson, said that once the derricks are moved, they plan to continue a community tradition which was begun back in the late 60s-early 70s by the Orangefield Lions Club.
“We hope to do a Christmas festival the second weekend of December of this year,” Wilson said. “We want to light up the 120-foot derrick with Christmas lights.”
But, fundraising must be done to get the ball rolling.
The 63rd annual Orangefield Homecoming Saturday was the perfect opportunity to tie-in fundraising efforts. The annual event is always held on the second Saturday in June.
When the school acquired the museum a few years ago, it started opening the museum during the homecoming so Orangefield Alumni could experience the generosity of the Cormier family.
This year, on Friday, the night before the homecoming, starting at 7 p.m. the first fundraising event for the moving of the derricks will by held; the Orangefield Community Hootenanny. Located in the new high school gym, the hootenanny is an age old tradition from Orangefield’s past. Absent in recent years, Orangefield was the site of several hootenannys in the 70s.
Linda Granger Crawford approached the school about organizing the fundraiser several months ago according to Orangefield Superintendent Phillip Welch. The Granger family was always involved in the hootenannys held in Orangefield in the past.
Wilson said that the event will feature local entertainment from Rudicelli, Fuse and the Britt Godwin Band.
Following the hootenanny, on Saturday, the Orangefield Homecoming is scheduled for 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Orangefield Elementary Cafeteria.
The Cormier Museum will be open that day from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. The museum is regularly open 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month.
Welch said school funds are not used to pay for the museum’s expenses. “We’re not paying for the museum now because the museum has gotten some grants and donations and basically it’s an independent fund. It’s not paid with tax money or money from the state that the school gets. This year, it’s been able to support itself and that’s our goal.”
Jesse Freemont also volunteers his time to the museum. “There’s a lot of things that could be done [for the museum]. It’s just finding the time,” said Welch. “We were fortunate that they stepped up. We don’t have anybody at the school district that could devote that amount of time to do what they’re doing to get it up.”
Welch said the museum has been utilized by several of the local schools. “West Orange school district brought all their third graders through. They brought about two classes at a time and it was about six days that they came through.” Port Neches-Groves Middle School and members of Region 5 have toured the facility. “What [Region 5 is] looking to do for us next year is help promote it, advertise it and get it where teachers know about it, because all school districts are going to be in the same situation. They will be looking for a field trip that is close by, that’s beneficial, but it’s cost effective. We’re not charging for them to get in. I think students can learn a lot from it. The more teachers that know it’s available, the more use we’ll see.”
“If there is a special group or organization that wants to see it, [outside the regularly scheduled hours] all they have to do is get a hold of Mr Ousley, Mr. Freemont or Mr. Wilson and they’ll make arrangements for them to look at it.”
Setting designated hours is one of the things that qualified the museum for some of the grants it received. “It wasn’t only a museum that opened for private tours, we are actually open to the public on a set time schedule.”
Besides efforts to save the last two derricks in Orangefield, Welch mentioned discussions of listing graduates that served in the military, possibly putting a star beside their name if they were killed in action. Also under consideration is a list of notable alumni. “I believe we have a picture of Garey Birt Peveto winning the state championship in the shot put. We have a picture of Courtney Burch that graduated from here that is the new district judge here in Orange.” Those additions will be in the part of the museum that houses the “Alamo” replica of the original high school.
The Cormier legacy should continue to grow and the memory of Orangefield’s oil field past will be preserved.
Admission for the hootenanny is $5 for adults and $2 for 12-year-old children and under. Refreshments will also be available for purchase.
For the homecoming on Saturday, the committee provides barbecue and drinks. Participants are asked to bring their favorite side dish, salad or dessert. Also bring pictures, annuals and any memorabilia you may have.
For more information on the homecoming contact Mary Nixon at 409-735-3019, Kay Bilbo at 409-735-3360, Robert Montagne 409-697-2836 or Jimmie Lea Simmons at 409-768-1554.
To schedule a visit to the museum call 409-735-5337.
For more information on the derrick relocation project contact Bo Henley at 409-988-8523