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The Old Home Town

I grew up in Casper, Wyoming. I lived there from 1962-1975 and then again from 1981-85. It was an oil town back then. My father, my father-in-law, and I were all associated with the oil business.

The big producers began to leave in the late 60s, and by the late 80’s were all gone. Two of the refineries closed. The earlier generation of employees retired, and the rest of us moved on as the industry slid towards Texas.

Some of our family members remained in Casper, and we return to visit now and then. We were there earlier this week and drove around to see what has changed over the years.

We passed by several places that had been important in our young lives:

  1. The house I grew up in looks much the same except for a new front porch. The maple tree my father planted in the front yard is quite tall now.
  2. My husband/tech advisor’s family home has not changed much. The family sold it only a few years ago when his mother moved to assisted living. There is a newer, bigger shed in the backyard.
  3. The schools I attended–Fairdale Elementary, East Junior High, and Kelly Walsh High School–have all been torn down. Only Kelly Walsh was rebuilt. These schools stood in a newer part of Casper, and the 1960s buildings did not weather well.
  4. My husband’s schools are all still there. His Natrona County High School dates from the 1920s and will outlast us all.
  5. His church building survives as well. My congregation outgrew the building I knew and moved elsewhere.
  6. The office buildings where my dad and I worked are still standing. I saw a Space for Lease sign atop his.

Casper seems to be growing. At 60,000, the population is nearly twice what it had been when I first lived there. The town spreads east-west along the North Platte River and south towards Casper Mountain. With a dwindled oil business, the large employers are the hospital and Casper College.

Most of the stores we knew have been repurposed into other establishments. The mall stands mostly empty. New retail has been built to the east on land that was open prairie when I lived there. A wind farm dominates part of the skyline.

I enjoyed driving around the city to reminisce. Casper looks familiar to me but not the same. A lot changes in sixty years.

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