Sunday, December 28, 2008

Discovering Baytown or How I learned to Love This City

My Dad is the consummate machinist, a Tool and Die Maker and for many years this profession caused him to uproot his family and move…and move we did. For us five kids, this usually equated to an adventure and we would hurriedly inform our friends that we were moving; sometimes with a one-day notice and then we were gone.

Just for your pleasure, I'll define what this skill entails. Tool and die makers make jigs, fixtures, dies, molds, machine tools, cutting tools (such as milling cutters and form tools), gauges, and other tools used in the manufacturing world. My Dad would routinely tender his résumé and off we would go.

These days Dad spends most of his "off" time working in wood in his home shop and at 80 years, he is still active with his machines. I say off time, because anytime we have a family function, he always remarks that he's "off" that day.

Anyway, all this traveling made us nomads of sorts, moving from California, Michigan, Utah, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio with numerous cities in numerous states and all the different schools associated with each place. Sometime in the fall of 1970 we lived in St. Louis and industry in Texas was beginning to blossom so we naturally headed south.

My dad and siblings moved into the construction industry and I enlisted into the Air Force. Exiting the service in 1974, I moved to Baytown where my parents and brother Terry were living at the time, not expecting to still be here thirty-four years later. My Dad and brothers were all employed at Mobay Chemical for Brown and Root, so I naturally joined them in the pipe department. Mobay eventually became Bayer Material Science and Terry has been with them for over thirty years.

My youngest brother Bruce was hired by Liquid Air/Burdett Oxygen as an operator and when it finally shutdown, he joined Aristech Chemicals off of SH-225, which is now Sunoco. He has over 30 years in the industry also. My brother Gordon, known back then as "Flash" stayed on with B&R in the rigging department and after surviving the ARCO ethylene pipeline explosion on Sheldon Road in 1976, was severely burned in the explosion on East Baker Road at the Chemical Exchange Plant.

After recovering somewhat, he moved to the Missouri Ozarks to get as far away from Chemical Plants as possible. The day the ARCO explosion barely missed my brother who was operating a Cherry picker near the eruption, I was also close by, but on the other side of the tree line working on the Oxyrane/ARCO project.

My sister Connie, who also worked at Bayer for Brown and Root, now works for Fluor on the Total Deep Conversion Project in Port Arthur, but lives just off of SH-146 close to Dayton, as do my parents.

Me? I joined ARCO Chemical in 1977 and transferred to ARCO Polymers in 1982 under Ronald's Reaganomics and have been there ever since. Today it's called TOTAL Petrochemicals though.

Basically, we came here and stayed here. Having lived all over the country and some of it quite beautiful…why? Why Baytown of all places? First off, it's because home is where you make it, but more than that, it's Texas and the way Texans look at life. It works and it makes sense. We like the way things are done here in Baytown, the many fine folks who are settled here and we have adopted the city as our own, not to mention we all married "Texan" and our kiddos are dyed-in-the-wool Texans.

My bride Sandra is straight-up Pelly Rat stock with Jackson's, Barber's and Barrow's. Annie, Henry, Augusta E., Martha, Amanda Ruby and Rubin were progeny of Joseph Barber and Emmeline Jackson and her kin line, as were the Fishers and the Winfrees.

Her Dad was "Reno" of Reno's Barbershop out on SH-146, even though his real name was Willard Reneau and a humbler man I've never met. He called the place Reno's, because he didn't want folks to have to figure out how to pronounce Reneau.

My bride's great aunts were also Barrows, who were longtime citizens of this area. Amanda Ruby married Daniel Barrow and from them came Edith Nettie, Ora V., Lily, Rosemond "Mollie", Hazel Olive, Daniel G., Ethel L, and my favorite – Dimple Darling Barrow. Now, who could move away from an area with people named like that?

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