A Hotter Hole
* First Printed Picture of an Oilman --
Ortus Sanitatis, Strasbourg, 1517
50 Years of Pure Fun
My grandfather, after observing a house
several doors down the street in Scranton
disappear into burning mine shaft,
considered, more seriously
than he had previously done, the benefits
of a new alternative to coal —
His part of the emerging business
was to invent an auto club.
His hobby was to race any car that
passed him on the road, and buy it.
My father, after graduating class poet
from Brown University intended to
teach school, but soon found himself working
for Pure Oil, which is why today I found
a brochure from the fifties entitled
50 Years of Pure Fun – full of cartoons,
a hand written letter about picnics, jokes —
reminding me of a time in my life
when everyone I knew wasn’t disgusted
with the oil industry.
There was optimism in the early days.
Exploration produced beautiful geological
maps of layers of earth, shale, sand, salt water
and – on a lucky day, black gold. My father
worked with Warner Brothers to make a film
about oil exploration, and we got to go along.
When my father and grandfather started
in the oil business it was the cutting edge of
a new technology, cleaner and better than coal
which had ignited the mountains underneath
their home with slow, hot fires that are still
My uncle liked to tell the story about how
the Carpenetti family had to move their
gas station six times –
each move a little further from disaster.
Grandmother drove a Henry J.
Everyone told stories about spinning
down ice covered mountain roads.
Mother, who drove to teach school in a village
close by, was stranded once in a blizzard
and had to spend the week with a couple
who only spoke to each other thru their dog.
Our world revolved around cars
and the energy that fueled them.
It was an exciting technology, caught
the imagination of the world,
and it’s markets.
But today, we’re about to fall into an
even hotter hole— much like the one that ate
house after house on the street where my
father grew up, but world scale.
It’s our turn to find another kind of energy,
or move in stages like the Carpenettis' gas station,
away from disaster, or both.
Fifty Years of Pure Fun morphed
to Unocal, pipelines in Afghanistan,
Turkmenistan, wars and more wars
which we are sick of.
Plus the street is on fire —
©Susan Bright, 2006,
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
*cartoon from 50 Years of Pure Fun
published in 1965, inhouse pamphlet,
What it is About
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