Welcome to Oil City, Pennsylvania! The title of this post is obsolete. Quaker State Oil and Pennzoil are now in the great state of Texas. I lived in Oil City for 19 years and have not lived there for 37+ years now. But, Quaker State oil and Pennzoil were founded there, as was I. It was our birthplace and for me, it is forever etched into my dna.
Oil City is located in Northwestern Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Erie, PA.. There are two bodies of water that flow through this idyllic town, the Allegheny River and Oil Creek. It is located in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. Oil for production purposes was discovered in the nearby city of Titusville, by Edwin L. Drake in 1859. We are known as the Valley that Changed the World. A fascinating story of oil boom towns and fires are part of the history of Oil City.
Growing up, the city was busy with oil refineries and steel mills that provided pieces for the oil industry. It was a safe city, one filled with quiet neighborhoods and caring people. If you ventured on your bicycle too far or were heard to be bad mouthing something, your folks knew about it before you could return home and cover your tracks. It was a great place to grow up.
I posted this photo, because when you drive down the main highway coming in to town (affectionately known as the four lanes) you ride beside the river and as you round a bend coming into the city center, you look up to see the steeples of St Joes. . When you see the steeples and smell the residual scent of the long gone oil refineries you know you are home. Tears come to my eyes when I see this site. My heart skips a beat to let me know it knows where we are. The greens are greener and the river is, well, as gray as it always has been, but it is comforting.
Not many people born there continue to live their whole lives in this community. The once thriving city is now a city of aging families and cottage industries. Crime is on the rise from what I read, but, it will always be home to me. Those of us who left this city in our youth yearn to be back there. To walk the streets we know like the back of our hand. To look at homes and remember the people who once lived there. The ones who would give homemade fudge on Halloween, or the ones who would come out of the door to check on my sisters and I after our Mother died. The places where you received your first kiss or someone held your hand for the first time.
When we were stationed overseas we would go into the exchange and go to the automotive section. There we would pick up a can of oil and look on the side, it was always comforting to see, “refined in Oil City, PA” . My dear hubby and I would do this each time we ventured onto the base. We were holding home in our hands and it felt right.
Gone are the days of the refineries. Gone are the steel mills. Gone too, are the parents and the uncles who worked at those refineries and mills. But their legacy remains.
A dear friend of mine owns a catering business in town. I was on an extended visit helping her with her business one year. She had a luncheon she was serving in the building of the steel mill my father worked in. We parked her van and unloaded the food. We walked across the street and as we passed through the gates memories of my childhood flooded me. My sisters and I would stand at the gate waiting for my dad to emerge from his office so we could either go on a lunch picnic with him or we could ride home with him in the car. We were never allowed to go inside the gate. As I walked through the gate a part of me expected to get scolded. We entered the building and walked up the worn steps. We delivered the food and I looked around somehow hoping to get a glimpse of my dad. As I walked back down the steps and grasped onto the railing I was overcome (as I am now) at the thought of holding on to something that he did daily without thinking of it. It was a connection, a tug at my heart of being home.
The city as I knew it is long gone, but the strong foundation that was laid not only by my parents, but by my ancestors still exist. It is written and remembered in the roads, in the trees that gracefully cover the hillsides, by the tombstones that crumble in the cemeteries. It is home calling to me.
If you ever get a chance to pass through this place, stop and visit. It isn’t much to look at, but stop and listen and you will hear the echoes of glories past and the hope that the future will blossom into beauty once more.
I yearn for the days where I can visit and walk and deeply breath in the air that only Oil City has. It is there that I can remember dreams and hopes of a child, and revive them as an adult.
Dorothy was right when she said, “There is no place like home, there is no place like home.” I have had many homes in many places, but none have written themselves on my heart like Oil City. There is only one other place where I know my heart will rest and be restored, when I walk the streets not of concrete, but those of gold in my heavenly home. There is where I will not only walk with my Savior, but also with the people who paved the way for me to enjoy the city of my birth.
Thanks for stopping by, as always, DAF