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JUNE 22, 1974: Organizers call event a great success
Editor’s note: The Fairfield Center in Meeker was dedicated and there was a public open house June 22, 1974. The following story was published in the July 4, 1974, edition of the Herald Times.
It was a day (and a night) Meeker will never forget.
Celebrating the grand opening of the new million dollar Freeman Fairfield Center, Meeker residents shook off the bends that divided young and old, cowboy or long hair, with everyone joining hands in the true community spirit.
The opening drew the hoped-for crowd to initiate the new library, teen center, arts and crafts room and meeting hall. The Saturday morning dedication ceremonies attracted about 350 people, while at a high point of the dance that night around 700 were in attendance.
In his remarks at the morning dedication, Father Joseph Johns said the worst thing that could happen to the building was that it would not be used. “We want to make this center the hub of activity around which Meeker revolves.”
And, if Saturday was any indication of what’s to come, the center will be a huge success.
As one entered the new building, it was hard to believe that such a structure was located right here in Meeker. As with any major building project, decisions were made not to everyone’s liking but as citizens took in a quick glance around the building before the dedication speeches, everyone marveled at its beauty.
After the invocation in which everyone paused a few moments to remember the man who had thought enough about his hometown to leave it a $2 million trust fund, Father Joe Johns introduced the honored guests. Labeling it as a community project, Father Johns listed the many people on the various committees and boards, who put in their free time to see that the center would be an asset to the town. Those workers who were employed were also not forgotten, along with the bankers, architect Robert VanDeusen and general contractor Henry Blaylock.
A life-long friend of Freeman Fairfield, R.G. Lyttle, was given the honor of giving the main speech. Mr. Lyttle’s review of Freeman Fairfield covered his boyhood days in Meeker, his early unsuccessful attempts at making money along with his rise in the oil field business and the many charitable acts that Mr. Fairfield performed in his life.
As remembered by Mr. Lyttle, “I went to California in 1923 where I ran into Bob Kyle in Long Beach. He told me Freeman was working in the oil field on Signal Hill and a few days later we got together. I later met his boss who told me how Freeman had come up the hill looking for a job. He asked Freeman if he had any experience and Freeman said yes. Well, he told me he had seen a rig and that was all he knew but he was such a hard worker as a roughneck he couldn’t fire him and soon was a good hand.
“It was here he conceived the idea of buying junk oil field equipment and the start of the Oil Tool Corporation. After accumulating quite a lot of this secondhand equipment, he started leasing it out to drillers on a percentage basis. His first return was a discovery at Huntington Beach, and later at Bakersfield, which brought in enough revenue for Freeman to enlarge his business from just second hand to selling new equipment. The Oil Tool Corp. soon became one of the larger suppliers of oil well equipment in the Long Beach area; with the largest pipe threader, casing and drill stem straighteners in the area.
“His big break came when he leased South Mountain near Santa Paula. Two major companies had the south side of the mountain but the north side had been drilled several times and there was supposed to be a fault in between. They laughed at him when he moved in a big rotary outfit and when he struck the first oil, stories were that he was hauling oil up at night and putting it down the hole. But after two or three more good wells, the stories changed and a few years later he sold the South Mountain field for $7 million.
Winding up the morning ceremonies, Father Johns said, “Meeker can be the example for the other men of wealth for them to see what a gift of this type can mean to a small, growing community. If we use this facility instead of it just sitting idle and being a memorial building it will be the true tribute to Mr. Fairfield.”
Awaiting the serving of the banquet, the crowd toured the facilities and most everyone was extremely pleased on the good looks of the building. The library provides a casual atmosphere for reading or studying, the soon-to-be equipped arts and crafts room and teen center will make available materials and games to keep people active and the apartments that everybody said looked so little, really weren’t like that upon inspection.
After a long wait in the line for most people, the delicious roast beef banquet catered by Mrs. Darlene Wallace of the Meeker Cafe, tasted mighty good along with the dessert and drinks that were supplied by the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and Meeker Woman’s Club.
The afternoon saw many gathered together in the spacious meeting room just talking and relaxing while others stopped by for a quick tour or a bite to eat.
Starting at 7:30, the young people “got it on” to the music of the “Oracle.” A short two hours of jumping and jiving failed to tire the young crowd and a hand clapping, foot stomping cheer of “We want more” didn’t work either in getting the band to stay.
In a way, it was too bad the band stopped as it was another hour before Bobby Kay and his “Three for the Show” strummed their first chords. But the wait was well worth it and the country-western band played on till the wee hours of the morning which brought to a close one of those days Meeker residents won’t forget in a long time.