Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bygone Oilfields Archive

Bygone Oilfields Archive

We left off last week talking about “The Bygone Oilfields” archive. Jeff Goslowsky  shared some recollections, and he brought up Pete’s love for old oil drilling and pumping machinery.

The “Oilwell Hills”, as Pete called them, are east of Uptown Whittier, and the Turnbul Canyon, and Lost Canyon areas. As Pete pointed out, some of the old machinery was still there in the late 1960’s.  The Oilwell Hills are depicted in the banner painting for the blog, and are now part of the wilderness preserve that I wrote about in the first post here at the Lost Canyon Project .

I wasn’t sure at first if the box cover was maybe a little goofing around on Pete’s part “Starring Pete Hampton and…Also Introducing Tom Malloy” but this group of pictures was indeed, the beginning of another show. 

It wasn’t until I’d finished the photography session that I found several pages of text, a shooting script for the illustrations, and a story fragment on the back of one of the paintings. It is for just this reason that I’ve been careful not to disturb the order of the paintings in any of these collections. 

Like The Lost Canyon Trip, the Bygone Oilfields show would have been a slide show of paintings and photographs accompanied by a tape recorded sound track and narrative.

One of the paintings in this collection dates to 1954. The newspaper lining the box was from 1964, so Pete had this story idea going for quite a while before he met either Tom Malloy, or Gay Turner. The show would have combined a tour of some antique oil pumping machinery in the Oilwell Hills with Pete’s “The Terrible Thing” story, and a campfire story/ urban legend called “The Green Mist”. Pete included Tom and Gay in his story notes, so I’d put the notes at some time in 1968.

The following text has been taken as-is from the hand written notes in the archive. I must admit, I got a chuckle out of some of the late 60's slang. "Righteous" was the "awesome" of its day.  I have done as little editing as possible.

Pete Hampton writes:

"This story is based on true life experiences as I saw them 10 years ago. 

This is a modern suburb, “Friendly Hills” in Whittier California. Behind are abandoned oilfields that were discovered when Whittier was young in 1900. So remote, lonely, and old…

On this trip you will see many kinds of oil pumping devices up there never exposed to the public before.

An oilman once said, “This is unusually fascinating in its own way. Not many people get a chance to see this place” 

… Some of you’ll say it’s beautiful and fascinating, some, it’s strange and scary, some it’s groovy, and others will say it’s freaky.

"Tom, look at how quick it changes from a modern tract to a place that’s 35 years behind time. Here’s a gate “Trespassing and Loitering Forbidden by Law”" 

Oh, well no one will see me. I just hope the oilmen won’t shut the gate and lock me in, it’s late afternoon. Even the poles are like time never touched this place, WOW! 

Look at this old “Iron Butterfly”, a device pulled by a cable from a main power center then pulling three wells up the hill.

Look, a different kind of central jackplant at the bottom of this canyon. My gosh it’s down on the ground instead of on top of a tin house. Here’s an old single cylinder gas engine out in the open with two huge flywheels and a ball governor to keep it going. It lives off natural gas pumped by its own wells. Listen to how loud it puffs, pops and pounds.

Another more common walking beam type oil well seems to answer back over there. It almost seems to make a mechanical rock music. This is righteous! There’s the cam wheel on the ground pulling cables in all directions.

As a curtain of blackness falls over this canyon, I went driving up a lonely road disappearing into the darkness, hoping they wouldn’t lock the gate behind me. For the first time I was driving up a lonely mountain like hill where I’d never been before.

Beginning of story…
Drive up lonely hill at night

Up ahead the road forked. One part went up to a vast desolate valley up in the East Whittier Hills, the other went up the hill which would take me up higher. A fear gripped me to hold me back, yet some curiosity of exploration seemed to drag me on. 

Fire shot out of old One Power below. It was dead quiet except for squeaking of jacklines and pounding of jackplants in tin houses.

    ...A sense of eon’s time struck me by the formations in this sandstone bank, millions of years, maybe. I feel God’s creation of these great hills, how small I am…


It’s teeming with nightlife if we look for it… 

What’s That! Look, something bolted in front of me over there towards that drop. Then a skeleton comes at my windshield and disappears."

To be Continued…