KILGORE, TX (KLTV) - The City of Kilgore is illuminated during the Christmas season in its own unique way. Giant derricks topped with stars celebrate not only Christmas but the history of the city and the region.
When the Daisy Bradford III oil well blew in on Oct. 3, 1930, East Texas, and even the world were changed forever. In the midst of the country's Great Depression, the discovery of oil in East Texas promised jobs, as well as food and clothing for suffering families.
The town of Kilgore grew from a population of 500 to 5,000 literally overnight, with many new residents living in tents and even pasteboard boxes in the city's park.
Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin says oil derricks were everywhere in the city. Here in the world's richest acre, derricks were so close that workers could step from one derrick to another without ever setting their feet on the ground.
The East Texas oilfield was the largest oilfield within U.S. boundaries and during World War II, England's Prime Minister Winston Churchill is to have said that the East Texas oilfield 'floated the allies to victory'.
"We were at a Main Street meeting in 1986 talking about what we could do to restore downtown and Jack Elder stood up and said we need to put the derricks back up," says Spradlin.
Elder had recorded the oil boom days in his historic photographs.
"Everyone looked around like it was the craziest idea they ever heard and then the more they thought about it the more it sounded like a good idea," says Spradlin.
To date, 75 derricks have been rebuilt with 24 mini derricks erected to symbolize the derricks in the world's richest acre.
Each derrick is topped by a giant star, with one cross somewhere in the midst of the derricks.
During the Christmas season, the lighted derricks make a spectacular display, celebrating Christmas and honoring one of the most important and colorful eras of East Texas history.