Life On Kilgore's Unforgettable StreetsCaleb Pirtle III
Life on Kilgore’s Unforgettable Streets is a love story told by those who loved growing up in the town, roaming its streets, cruising its drive-ins, dancing in its community centers, watching its nine-cent picture shows, playing its sports venues, sneaking out of its places of questionable repute, earning an education in its schools, and building their own businesses during the golden years of the 1950s and 1960s.
One era had ended. Boomtown Kilgore was two decades in the past. The grime and the noise associated with drilling eleven hundred oil wells inside the city limits had faded away.
The derricks remained.
They were the symbol of wealth that had transformed Kilgore into a thriving metropolis, far more progressive than its population would indicate.
It was a time when Kilgore’s Van Cliburn stunned the musical world, winning the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. Bob Luman left town to become one of the nation’s foremost rockabilly performers, making it big-time in California, then Nashville. Elvis Presley wandered East Texas, going from one radio station to another and singing at the Reo Palm Isle. The Shadows stayed home and kept right on playing their brand of music for the next five decades.
A world war had ended.
The Korean conflict exploded, then died away.
Kilgore’s soldier boys marched away to battle. Not all of them came home again.
The town survived slant hole drilling scandals and the rigors of segregation.
The town had strong-armed and strong-willed lawmen to keep the peace, especially out along the beer joints of a highway known as Bloody 31. The strongest was a woman. Some say Al Dexter wrote his song, “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” in honor of Sis Dickson.
The college turned out national champions in football and basketball. One teen-age umpire reached the major leagues. And a handful of its high school football players made their way to the NFL.
Kilgore changed a lot of lives.
It would change more.
The generations of the fifties and sixties lived through the grandiose times of Kilgore. They built the foundation of their hometown, and Kilgore built the foundation for their lives.
This is their story.
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