Home of Quaker State, Pennzoil and Me…

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  The title of this post is obsolete.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

Published by marycatherinethomas

M. Catherine Thomas is a published writer, speaker and teacher. Mother of two and grandmother..

51 thoughts on “Home of Quaker State, Pennzoil and Me…

  1. This was so beautifully written! What a tribute to Home. The only thing that would make it even better is for you to include a picture or two of you growing up in Oil City.

  2. One of the things I am really hoping to pull off is remaining anonymous so that people wonder what in the world I look like! Of course, gravity has not been kind and teenage years were a loooooooooooong time ago. Thanks for the comment. Yours always mean so much to me!

  3. This is really an emotive post. I can really feel your love for this place. Is this the way that most small towns in Pennsylvania have gone? It’s a story familiar to many small towns in Australia.

  4. I think most small communities are struggling now, across the world. Industries that were once part of Oil City’s life are now outsourced and that leaves the infrastructure faltering. There is a group of people in Oil City who are trying to makee it more of an artist’s community where it will bring in tourism. It’s a good thought, but it is hard to transform industrial thinking into being an area for tourism, if that makes sense. I personally think (oops, a personal opinion!?!) that if cities were allowed to do what they did best in the 50’s/60’s/70’s it would help the economy greatly. But, how do you reverse ‘progress’ for the sake of progress? Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. parts of this post could be me! I grew up in another oil city in PA, Bradford, PA. Yes, my parents knew if I cursed across town. It was a great place to be. I don’t know now as I haven’t lived there for over 20 years, haven’t been there for closer to 15, but when I did go back for a visit, I remember the bit of sheepishness doing things as an adult I had only observed as a child.

  6. Crumbs, you grew up about an hour away from me! Love NW PA, how fun that you found my post, was this from the blog party? Glad you liked the post, thanks for stopping by!

  7. Crumbs, you grew up about an hour away from me! Love NW PA, how fun that you found my post, was this from the blog party? Glad you liked the post, thanks for stopping by!

  8. Great post. Makes me homesick for my hometown. Ever been to the Oregon coast? That’s where my heart is.

  9. Lived in Southern CA for 27 + years, and never made it north of Sacramento… Heard that it is beautiful in Oregon, so sorry I didn’t make it there. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

  10. I grew up in Oil City and many precious memories still well up within me about my hometown. I remember sledding down the hill at the Presbyterian Church on the Northside by the hospital. I loved to spend the summer at the pool. In fact, I worked there and met my first girlfriend there and oh the times at Hasson ice skating rink. Thank you for bring a long moment of joy to my heart

  11. I spent hours playing by the Presbyterian church, sledding in the winter and in the creek in the summer. So many wonderful memories. I too, met my first boyfriend at the pool!

  12. So true… Oil City is home for me too and I’ve lived in 19 places since I left 25 years ago, military too….. but there’s no place like home! I still hope for a miracle that brings back some life and good work to the town and it could rival the glory days of the Oil boom!

  13. I grew up in Oil City to. Been years since I’ve visited but my dad is still there. I’ve resided in Oregon for the last 30+ years. The Oregon coast is beautiful.

  14. I have heard that Oregon is very similar to NW PA. My husband and daughters have visited there, I haven’t, we lived in So Ca for almost 30 years and never made it up that far, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  15. I too am from Oil City. Grew up running the streets. Walking across the steel bridge watching the river flow beneath you. The concerts in Justice Park. When oil heritage was a really big deal and people from all over would come to see our little city. This is how I chose to remember my hometown. Thanks for posting.

  16. 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.
    You know when you read something … a bit of it just hits you, and you look again. That is the bit right there.

  17. I write this with tears in my eyes. I, too, was born and (partially) raised in Oil City, and I miss the smell of crude and the sound of the pumps. After my grandfather passed there wasn’t a reason to visit but the magic of the town kept calling me. It took 15 years, but I finally made it home. I cried as I drove into town. The sight was nothing like what it was. Gone were the proud and beautiful homes and standing in their place were crumbling unkempt residences. I drove by the house I could once call home and it looked so sad with overgrown shrubbery and peeling paint. My son lives in Pittsburgh now and I visit him at least once a year and with every visit I drive “home”. I am happy to see that young blood is moving in and trying their best to revive the splendor that once was. I know that it will never be the way that I remember, but what I remember is the way it will always be.

  18. Your entire entry was pulled directly from my brain. I grew up in Oil City but have lived in Connecticut for 35 years. I still consider I’ll city home! My heart breaks every time I see another building being torn down. The junior high is gone, Brodie’s (The Rig) is no more, the open cold windy bridges that I had to walk to school across have been replaced with modern bridges. And yes children, I really did have to walk a mile and a half to school each way! It’s still his beautiful country though. Maybe with the advent of 5G and more real telecommuting jobs people can start to live where they want to in the area can grow again.

  19. The home I was born into and the home I was raised in are both gone, just empty plots of ground. The home that I lived in when I was married is absolutely horrible looking. We go home at least once a year and yes, there is that hint of new life coming in. It’s a hard thing to go back, have the memories of your youth and see the reality of today. Thank you for visiting my blog. I appreciate it.

  20. I too walked a mile or so to school each way, up hill and down hill, literally, and in the snow, hail, sleet and rain… haha! We can only hope and pray that one day the city will return. Thanks for stopping by my blog, I appreciate your visit.

  21. DAF, This is a wonderful written piece and tribute, no wonder you have received such a wonderful response on this post.
    Now keep up the good work, as you know what your readers and looking for and will come back to read your posts over and over again.

  22. I’m going to cost there in November. I wasn’t raised there but went to see my grandparents rember the smell I new we where close.

  23. Beautiful…tugged my heart. Grew up there and left in 62. Even then, jobs were scarce. It will never be as it was. So sad.

  24. I am so glad you enjoyed this post. Your visit means so much to me, thank you for leaving a comment. I left the day after I married in 75. You are right, it won’t be like it was, but, aren’t they great memories?

  25. I spent the 70’s on Oil City, and finished high school there. My parents where born and raised there. I Love going back, try to at least once a year and see old friends, places and family. I make a point to visit as many new business’ as possible and support the community. I feel as though my “loving cup” is full every time I leave town, and always look forward to the next visit. I have many fond memories of this town and it’s people. Thanks for the beautiful reminders of community.

  26. I to grew up in oil city. Only when I was growing up it was the 90’s. Gone were the days of oil. But it was still a peaceful place. I am still residing in town. Well if that’s what you would like to call it. She will always be home, but it will be forever changed as the people here have given up. It’s sad to say but this place is dying.

  27. Don’t like the thought, but love the comment, thank you for taking the time to say something on my blog. you are right, I am afraid. It’s so sad too, it was such a great place to grow up. Thank you for stopping by today.

  28. I grew up near Oil City – Fryburg. Many a date night was spent in Oil City. The movie theater. The drive Inn. I still go up to visit friends about once a year. In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Unfortunately the city is hurting itself by having such high property taxes that the average person can no longer afford to live there.

  29. I moved here in the 70`s to marry and have children. I traveled and lived in other states which was appropriate then. I wasn`t happy living in Oil City when younger. Now I`m 72,on social security, and handicapped the last 3 yrs I`m content here living out the rest of my days. My two children have both moved away,which I`m happy for them for more opportunities. I live in a place called Town Towers,which is based on income with a handicapped apartment ,which is ideal for me. BTW there are openings here now.

  30. Love this! I consider Oil City my home town too. I lived there from age 5 through 12. Even though we lived in multiple locations within the city it was the longest time I lived in any place. Some of my most wonderful memories of my childhood are from my time there. We lived in the Orange St/Innis St area which included the Rich mansion. The mansion and grounds were an enchanting place to grow up. There were secret passageways, bell towers, gardens, ginkgo trees to climb and wild berries to pick. Anyway, your post brought to mind a special time for me…..thanks!

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