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Loss of refinery at Cyril was hard on workers, community

The refinery was Cyril's biggest employer and, after it closed, most people either retired or took out-of-town jobs.
By Hailey Branson-Potts, Staff Writer Published: October 10, 2010
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photo - A memorial now stands in the place of a refinery that once operated in Cyril. Hailey Branson-Potts/The Oklahoman
A memorial now stands in the place of a refinery that once operated in Cyril. Hailey Branson-Potts/The Oklahoman
CYRIL — When O.T. Moss talks about the oil refinery that once towered above his hometown, his blue eyes reflect the pain of losing a loved one.

“I miss it,” he said, looking out onto the grass-covered field where it once stood. “It was heartbreaking to see it come down and close.”

The refinery was the lifeblood of this small town, about 25 miles southwest of Chickasha, from the early 1920s until its closure in 1984.

It is now a federal Superfund site.

But that doesn't matter to Moss or the others who spent decades keeping it running. What matters are the memories of something loved that went away too soon.

‘A big family'

A metal memorial stands in honor of Cyril's fallen landmark on the east edge of town, where it stood until government agencies demolished its towers in 2004.

The names of those who worked in the refinery are etched into plaques like heroes.

Moss and Val Henery visit the memorial often.

Moss, 78, spent 32 years at the refinery, working as a technician, and his father and uncles worked there before him.

“It was a good place to work, and they paid us well,” he said. “Farming was the pits back then as far as making a living.”

Henery, 77, was a supervisor for 25 years.

He set a record for running his unit for 1,066 days without a shutdown, he said. He would get calls all the time asking him how he did it, and his answer was simple.

“A lot of guys would want to come down there during the graveyard shift and stare at Playboy and Hustler, but I would stare at the operating manuals,” Henery said.

The work was dirty, Moss and Henery said, but it was never too hard.

It was fun.

Workers steam-cooked their food on the job and made ice cream.

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