North Texas Deaf Senior Citizens

Field Trip to

February 12, 2011
Bert Hill, Laura Hill, Sara Harris and Mack Harris

Kilgore, Texas

Kilgore, Texas was first settled before the Civil War by planters from the old South, but the city was not founded until 1872, when the International-Great Northern Railroad built a line between Longview and  Palestine. The railroad bypassed New Danville, and the company platted a new town, which they named for Constantine Buckley Kilgore, who sold the 174-acre town site to the railroad and urged many of the businesses of New Danville to move there. A post office opened in 1873, and by 1885 Kilgore had two steam gristmill-cotton gins, a church, and a district school; the estimated population was 250. The Kilgore State Bank opened in 1906, and an independent school district was formed also in 1906. By 1914 the town had two banks, Baptist and Methodist churches, a newspaper, two cotton gins, several general stores, a drugstore, an ice cream parlor, a hotel, and a reported population of 700. The town reached a population of 1,000 in 1929. But the combined effects of the Great Depression and the decline of cotton, on which the town's economy had largely depended, brought a steep population decline. By the middle of 1930 the number of residents dropped below 500, and many businesses had been forced to close.

The discovery of the surrounding East Texas oilfield in the fall of 1930 transformed Kilgore from a declining rural community into a boomtown. Within days thousands streamed into the town, erecting tents and shacks in every available vacant space. Honky-tonk bars sprouted up around the town; schools and other public institutions were overwhelmed. To deal with the onslaught, the city incorporated in February 1931. By 1936 the town's population had swelled to 12,000. Kilgore, located near the geographic center of the oilfield, became an important production, processing, service, and supply hub. Numerous wells were drilled in the city itself, and at the height of the boom there were over 1,100 producing wells within the city limits. On part of one downtown block in the early 1930's stood the greatest concentration of oil derricks in the world; the area came to be known as the "World's Richest Acre."

But the huge increase in production caused oil prices to fall precipitously, and in August of 1931 Governor Ross Sterling ordered martial law to control production and bring order to the area. The boom began to subside in the mid-1930s. Major oil companies gradually bought out most of the independents, and by the eve of World War II the boom was largely over, although oil production in the area continues. During the 1950's and 1960's the population stabilized. In 1965 Kilgore had an estimated 10,500 residents and 578 rated businesses. In 1990 the population was 11,066. In the early 1990's the town housed a major office of the Oil and Gas Division of the Railroad Commission and the headquarters of various branches of  the petroleum industry. The East Texas Oil Museum and Kilgore College, the home of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes, are also located in Kilgore.

Arrived in Kilgore

Carol Hinton with Chamber of Commerce (left) welcomed us to Kilgore.
Our ASL interpreter was Lynne Duvall (right).

Chamber of Commerce gave out lapel pins


1. East Texas Oil Museum

Display and movie about oil boom

The strong 'gushering' vibration is felt on seats.


2. Lunch at Back Porch Restaurant

Free hush puppies and pinto beans


3. Kilgore College Rangerette Museum

The Kilgore College Rangerettes are a precision drill team from Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas.  The team was created by Gussie Nell Davis in 1939-1940 and made their debut on September 12, 1940.

Gussie Nell Davis, a teacher who had previous experience with training high school marching drill teams, was hired by the Kilgore College president in 1939. He wanted to create a diversion for fans to stay in their seats during half time rather than drinking alcohol. He instructed her "to produce a halftime show that would keep men in their seats instead of under the stands taking a nip." Her first shows provided "unaccustomed sobriety".  Miss Davis retired in 1979, and died in 1993.

They have performed internationally, including Venezuela in 1972, Hong Kong, Macao, and Korea in 1975, Romania in 1977, Nice, Paris, and Cannes, France in 1985 and 1995, Singapore in 1977, and many other locations around the world.  Since 1951, the Rangerettes have appeared at the pregame and half-time shows at the Cotton Bowl Classic and have appeared at several Dallas Cowboys games. Parades include Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Dwight Eisenhower's first inauguration.


Stanley Green (center) dancing with
Jennifer Aguinaga of Grand Prairie (left) and Cara Rzucidlo of Frisco (right)

At her age, Laurel is trying to be a Rangerette kicking high her leg.

First triplets of Rangerettes

Three Generations of Rangerettes:
Left -- Murlene Gattis Swingler (Grandmother in1948)
Center -- Suzie Swingler Anthony (Daughter in 1978)
Right -- Ashley Anthony (Granddaughter in 2007)

There are many two or three generations and also sisters or cousins.


We missed meeting a deaf Rangerette.  Taylor Greer is a deaf, sophomore Rangerette.
For more information about Taylor, click here.


4. Tour of City of Kilgore

Behind the NTDSC group is the world's richest acre with a forest of oil derricks concentrated on
a 1.2 acre site downtown where 2.5 million barrels pumped during 30 years of production.

Art Deco is an eclectic artistic and design style which had its origins in Paris.  Storefronts are
being renovated to complement the Art Deco architecture that still exists from our days
as an original oil boom town.

Black tiles

Crim Theatre was built in the 1930's during the height of the East Texas Oil Boom.

Kilgore -- Oil Capital of America in 1930's

Going home with good feelings!

NTDSC's official website: