years I have wanted to write this. I have decided
if I'm going to I better get started as I'll be 90
years my next birthday.
for a long time I have read your magazine with great
pleasure but so often wondered why nothing has been
said about the mid twenties when operations started
in Venezuela, South America and under the hard conditions
that those men went through. So now I probably am
one of the few left who can bring you a few facts
about those days.
Petroleum' in the middle twenties
men lived four to a room in two large bunkhouses -
two floors each. There were no washbasins or closed
showers, there were shower stalls and large wooden
troughs to wash your hands and face. In La Salina
my husband, Russell Bayne, worked in the warehouse
at a salary of under $100 per month. There were only
about 15 or 20 family homes in camp. The home we had
in the early 30's was a one bedroom, a tiny bathroom
and a second room for dining, a small screened front
porch used as a sitting room. At night we had rats
the size of kittens running across the open rafters
in our bedroom - a nightmare not knowing if one might
fall on us. Many times when you came out of the shower
you had big spots of oil on your body. This was removed
with lard. We dared not wash our hair in the shower
but caught rainwater and kept it to shampoo our hair.
shopping we had a small marketplace where we'd go
very early in the morning before the flies took over.
The meat hung on string tied between posts. On Tuesdays
we went by launch across the lake to the city of Maracaibo
to get supplies of canned food from the Curaçao
Trading Company, the only fair-sized grocery
store and to Botica Y Nueva for other household
articles. On special occasions like Christmas we would
do our shopping in Maracaibo.
always enjoyed having the single men, teachers, folks
who had no family, for Christmas dinner. At this time
there was no club and the single men found their fun
in Cabimas, the village town. In those days the oil
production was only in the thousands of barrels per
day. In the 20's, the foreign employees were paid
in gold coins so that's where 'The Gold Payroll' got
the 1930s six large homes were built for the department
heads. They were in the old La Salina camp
on the lakeside and work began on a new residential
complex called 'Hollywood Camp', about 30
two and three bedroom homes. Soon most of us were
moved to the new camp, to a new two-bedroom home,
two bathrooms, large living and dining room and a
nice kitchen. We were in heaven.
families were given Hollywood stars' names. Russell's
and mine were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as we
were good dancers, loved to dance and when we had
a dance at our new club a group of us would stay until
5AM then go to the mess hall for breakfast.
swimming pool and two tennis courts was another product
of the 30's. By now more employees were coming and
another camp, Las Cupalus was built across
the main road from Hollywood Camp. A new
school was built and American teachers were brought
in to teach our children. Spanish classes were arranged
for adults, especially the men.
Pearl Harbour! Most of the young men were called,
so many of our friends left. This meant the older
men left behind worked many extra hours everyday.
Work started at 6:30AM, many days at 5:30AM to 10
or 11PM with an hour off for lunch and a short siesta.
No one ever complained. The work had to be done. The
oil drilling could take no time off. Russell, being
in the supply department, had to be sure they always
had the drilling department well supplied. He was
one of those who worked long hours. The wives formed
a women’s club. We rolled bandages for the Red
Cross, knitted socks and more socks, had bake sales
raising as much money as possible to send to the Red
Cross and overseas.
we left Venezuela in the mid fifties, our production
was a million barrels per day. There were many more
homes built, new camps, hundreds more families, a
well-stocked commissary, an excellent dispensary and
good doctors. For major illnesses, births, surgery,
we had our new hospital 'Coromoto' in Maracaibo.
Before that we shared the Caribbean Hospital,
which had all English nurses.
you would like names, I remember so many, even in
the small first camp in La Salina. There
is so much more but I think what I have written should
give you an idea of those early days of now, Exxon
Lake Wylie, SC