T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History
Close proximity of home to the Conoco and Condea Vista plants
Debra Ramirez by Peggy Frankland, 2000.
DEBRA RAMIREZ: We were about, I guess maybe a mile or half a mile probably from Conoco. And I remember Vista coming behind us. They were to be an alcohol plant. Mrs. Hazel [Verdine?] sold them some property, along with the Richardson and Campbell family. [Condea] Vista was right behind my home, period. Conoco when they came in . . . Conoco used to own Vista at one particular point in time. And also Conoco was about . . . I would say about maybe a half a mile.

PEGGY FRANKLAND: But Vista was right in your backyard?


FRANKLAND: How close would you say?

RAMIREZ: If I had to judge the distance as a child, I would say maybe . . . Oh I’d say maybe about eighty to a hundred feet.

FRANKLAND: Okay. And as a child, did you play out in the yard?

RAMIREZ: Yes, I did. I played a lot out in our yard. That was my playground. I had nowhere to go. We couldn’t go places. My dad was real strict with his children. If you wasn’t at school activities or something they gave you permission to go to like a dance or social, you had to be home. You had to be in your place. They didn’t let us roam.

FRANKLAND: With this petrochemical plant there, were you all aware that there was a danger to it or . . . ?

RAMIREZ: We were never aware of the dangers of those chemical plants. We were never aware. We never really even knew what they had in them to be, you know, aware of the danger. But I remember grandma had a . . . Grandma [Lonnie?] had a swing on her front porch and the swing faced the east. And I would hear like this noise like something drawing ,umm umm, and that swing would swing me and I would get so sleepy, and I would fall asleep on that swing. So if the chemicals were there causing harm, I didn’t know, I was a little child. I didn’t have no way of knowing the dangers and I don’t think my parents knew the danger. If they would have, we probably wouldn’t have lived there.

FRANKLAND: How about the odor? Was there ever a strong odor?

RAMIREZ: Oh, all the time. Every day there was an odor in that area. Every day. Some you could smell, some you couldn’t, but you knew it was there. But it was never any awareness came in the effect that people would cause other folks harm enough to make them die or kill them with these chemicals like, you know, getting cancer and stuff like that. We just thought folk got old and died, or something misfortune happened where they just died. FRANKLAND: So you were never aware that there could be an explosion and your life was in danger?

RAMIREZ: We knew there of the explosions because they would explode, but we never once thought about us dying with it.
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