I graduated from High School in 1945 just as World War II was winding down. The need for draftees took a dramatic drop, so I went off to college right after school was out. There was never any doubt about where I would go to college. My family was located in eastern Ohio on the edge of the Appalachian Plateau and had a long tradition of attending Wooster College, near Cleveland, in Wooster, Ohio. In addition to me, my father, mother, brother, an aunt, several cousins, and more recently, my grandson all graduated from there.
Attending summer school gave me a little edge on most of the incoming freshman class. Fall found me signed up for Dr. Karl Ver Steeg’s Introduction to Geology. He was the long time Department Head of a two-man Department and was a colorful Dutchman from Iowa. The other professor was Harvard educated Charley Moke, very different but a great guy. Many of the young co-eds fulfilled their science requirement with introductory geology, and it was rumored that if they took a front seat in the modest-sized lecture hall, and crossed their legs just right, they likely would be graded up at least one letter. We had a lot of fun in Ver Steeg’s classes for he had lots of good stories. Our family had always been oriented to outdoor and nature related activities, so I went to school thinking about possibly transferring after two years to study forestry, but now geology had caught my eye. I took all the courses offered (except Paleontology) including a summer field course offered by the University of Colorado near Boulder in the Front range.
In the meantime, as a senior in the fall of 1948, I became enamored by a young lady – a lowly freshman! We were married in the fall of 1949 and last year celebrated our 60th anniversary.
After graduation in 1949, my father generously offered to see me through a year of graduate study at the University of Pittsburgh. That year gave me a lot more insight into petroleum geology and engineering. While finishing up my Master’s thesis in the fall of 1950, I sent out many employment applications, which received only modest responses. At that time, many companies had filled their quota of geologists for the year. Two who did respond were Shell and Texaco. Both suggested coming to nearby New York to interview. However, realizing any job openings were most likely in Texas, both companies made arrangements for me to interview in Houston in November and December of 1950. We left Ohio, essentially for good, in an old Jeep wagon with all our belongings, got to Houston in a few days, and I interviewed with both Shell and Texaco. Shell offered me a job and pointed out their year long training program; however, they had no funding for another geologist until early 1951. Texaco offered me a job at once working in their Corpus Christi office. Being “hungry” I accepted the Texaco offer and started a ten year career beginning in the Jones Building, later moving to the Wilson Plaza and then relocating to Houston in 1958. The Texaco training program, I feel, was a good one with lots of field work (well sitting) and slipping logs doing subsurface work. My co-workers – men like Jack Vreeland, John Honea and Woody Bryant – are either gone or retired, but they were good ones.
In the summer of 1958, Texaco decided I should get some experience in their Houston office, and we moved to Houston. However, I put out some feelers with folks I knew in Corpus Christi with interesting results. After a year and a half in Houston and entering the decade of the 1960’s, I picked up a retainer with a Corpus Christi operator, and we moved back to Corpus Christi.
Being an independent geologist – working for myself – was something I had long desired and now the time had arrived. We had a young family of two sons and a daughter so hard work was a steady requirement. On my first “Independent Venture” we made a modest gas well on a Miocene test in Nueces County. In 1960 gas was cheap but it was better than a dry hole.
Time moved on through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with good times as well as bad. About 1980, I developed a working relationship with a long time South Texas Operator, W.L. Cotton of Hebbronville, and we had some success finding production in Brooks, Duval and San Patricio counties. Our best “break” came in the late 1980’s. We heard of a new flowing oil well (the discovery of the El Mesquite Cook Mountain Sand Field in Cotton’s back yard). We quickly tracked down some very prospective trend acreage which drilled out productive, and after drilling a few producing wells, most of the co-owners sold out to Dan Hughes. I kept most of my working interest and ended up being in about 30 wells – a few of which are still producing – which is pretty amazing for a skinny 5′-10′ pay sand. Cotton passed on in 1994 and a few years later the operated properties were sold to Anderson Oil.
Around the turn of the century I had worked nearly 50 years in the South Texas oil patch and decided it was time to hang it up and spend the summers in the cool mountains of Southwestern Montana. We are still doing that. It was a great ride and I would not have traded it for anything.
John C. Worley, Geologist