The Long Way Home

Oil City Slickers
January 28, 2010, 10:45 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , , ,


trees at dusk, Pithole

I have spent the past month recovering from holiday drama, as well as dealing with a more recent family situation that has left me zoned-out on Netflix-on-Demand to escape from it all (and a dose of Wii bowling doesn’t hurt either). All this and the general winter blues has temporarily stolen my motivation to write or take photos. Jeff and I are getting ready for our two-person art show next week, which has been super stressful. To feel productive, I organized our external hard drive and found photos from a weekend trip we had in the Oil City region of Pennsylvania.

Tracing the progression of our trip through these photos makes me laugh. Where else can you sleep in a boxcar, walk the streets of a ghost town and troll a basement full of forgotten musical instruments being guarded by a mannequin majorette all in one weekend? 

safety phone, Oil city

I love exploring old, industrial towns and this area held promises of abandoned derricks in locals’ backyards, Victorian houses, spirits of oil barons and  steam trains. When we arrived in Oil City,  a storm was about to blow through, the bleak grey sky intensifying the color of the buildings around us.

Elks Club, Oil City


“What are you doing here?” A teen-aged boy hauling a couch into a local junk shop asked us as he watched me take pictures of his town. And it made me think, why are we here?

inside of an organ, Debence Antique Music World basement, Franklin


The romantic lure of a long-dead industry suddenly made me feel like a voyeur and somewhat of an ass for toting around my camera attempting to document rural town life. I could tell from the boy’s tone of voice and his look of disgust that he pretty much thought Oil City sucked and that we sucked for being there. I looked around and even on a Saturday, it was quiet. Aside from a coffee shop up the street, the library, and the junk shop workers, we could have been the only people there.

Chinese restaurant, Titusville


I’m a city girl who entertains ideas of living in a sleepy, small town where I can clear my brain. Maybe I’ll get more done, be less anxious. Oil City offers an artists’ relocation program to attract people to their region, revitalize homes and set up a creative community.  The houses there are incredible and beautiful. We not only wanted to scout the area for our typical trash-hunting purposes, but also see if we could ever live there.

8 track at Debence Antique Music World, Franklin


We’re not going to live there, but we do this when we take our long drives and point to houses, “Can I have it?” The dream begins.  If we lived there, we would have a spiral staircase, or a fireman’s pole leading to the second floor. A covered porch, and a mud room. Chickens in a coop out back and an old school bus converted into Jeff’s studio A giant empty room for my photography. Long hallways flooded with light. But all of this, in the city. In my search for home, I know that’s where I belong. Dreaming of a slow, quiet summer in the middle of this dark winter fills me with stories. 

a view from the Caboose Motel, Titusville


a church, Oil City


Jeff and Dan, Pithole


4 Comments so far
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Comment by Jeff

This trip was a blast (actually, they all are in their own way)!
The little diner there was really cool!


Comment by Jeff

It’s the idea of being somewhere open – where there are trees. I totally miss trees. Like, real ones, not the tall twigs lining my parking pad.

PS I put up that organ parts photo for you!


Comment by Lisa

“I’m a city girl who entertains ideas of living in a sleepy, small town where I can clear my brain.” Yes! Exactly.
I love the city, but I’m from the sticks, like you can see differently in a little town – your vision adjust differently because you can see farther – less stuff RIGHT THERE IN YOUR FACE ALL THE TIME. That’s not meant as a metaphor – I mean literally (and maybe a little metaphorically)
That photo of the Elks sign is great! So is the organ innards photo, of course.


Comment by sarah

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