'EVERY MIDLANDER SHOULD OWN THIS BOOK'
By Glen Aaron
Jimmy Patterson has done it again, written another fine book. We often talk about "character" as an individual, family and community value, but how does one define character? We know the good when we see it. We know the trait of bad character when we see it.
In searching for that definition in the community of Midland and in preparation for producing A History of Character, the story of Midland, Texas, Patterson conducted almost one hundred interviews with more than seventy-five people. It was a monumental effort and took a number of years.
In this column we often talk about our West Texas heritage and how important it is to know it and to embrace it. That heritage is about character, what it takes to create, to produce, to survive and to join together in community for common cause.
A History of Character is divided into two parts. Part One is about the history of Midland being a place with this thing called character and its historical highlights from the 1840s until today. The Second Part is entitled "People of Integrity, Past and Present, a few of the Midlanders who have helped make us who we are." By subject matter, Part One covers it all from the first white settlers, to cowboy and ranch development, how Midland became an oil capital and wealthy, to where we are now and much, much more.
While Part One covers many stories of individuals and the events surrounding them, Part Two includes sixty-six short biographical sketches of Midlanders from widely varied professions, as well as community leaders we have all known, or at least knew by name, and the countless volunteers who have shown what good character means.
Midland is a community of religion and fundamental faith and always has been. Patterson references John Howard Griffin's book, Land of the High Sky, as that author described the crucial importance of the church to social life in Midland's early decades, as the church provided church suppers, ice cream socials, Sunday School picnics and bazaars. Patterson, in A History of Character describes community sings:
"Singing was one of the best-loved traditions in early Midland, often used as a diversion from the realities of the hard-luck existence of the day. Community sings were often held on Sunday afternoons in churches during the time of growing congregations."
There are so many well-told stories in Patterson's book such as the Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. penthouse atop the Scharbauer Hotel, the construction of the Hogan Building (Petroleum Building) and adjoining Yucca Theatre and how that building influenced oil-industry professionals to establish their base of operations in Midland instead of San Angelo, Colorado City or Odessa. While that building offered fine office space, the Scharbauer Hotel provided fine lodging and food.
When it comes to Midland's famous personalities and leaders, their stories not only reveal who they are and what they did or continue to do, but Patterson in his writing brings them to life with the human element. You come to see their heart and dedication to this community. From Dr. Viola Coleman to Charlie Spence, Ed Todd, the Scharbauers, the Cowdens, the Midkiffs, the Herds, oil pioneer Jim Henry to the father of fracking, George Mitchell, you come to know and admire character, and this list doesn't even come close.
There are other fascinating stories, as well, such as the infamous murder of Juliette Turner in her mansion, which is now the Museum of the Southwest. From visionary mayors to President George W. and Laura Bush to famous bankers, the First National Bank of Midland, the accomplished lawyers and merchants, this book covers the history and current-day Midland. Moreover, it defines character in the process.
Every Midlander should own this book. It is by far the best description and story of who we are and where we came from, to date. In a world of turmoil and change, we need this book. This is the base of our community, the heritage source of our strength, the clear description of how we survived in the past and how we will in the future, no matter what happens.
A History Of Character, the story of Midland, Texas, was co-published by the Abell-Hanger Foundation and The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum and dedicated to the memory of the Honorable John Hyde, a Midland history enthusiast, himself.
Currently, the author, Jimmy Patterson, is working on a book with writer Ellen Hopkins regarding the history of Henry Petroleum, and a series of children stories, as told by Jim Henry to his grandchildren. The prolific Patterson is also working on a story of the great Scharbauer horses, Alysheba and Tomy Lee.
A History Of Character can be purchased at The Petroleum Museum, Hastings, The Ivy Cottage and the George W. Bush Childhood Home.
It would make a great Christmas gift for every person in the oil industry, as well as for those who love Midland.