The Gambler

Texas is full of people who bet the oil boom would never end. Jack Young is one of them. In 1981 his oil company earned $870 million. Today it’s all gone.

  1. In downtown Midland, at the intersection of Marienfeld Street and Michigan Avenue, stands a simple five-story concrete office building. It is not much to look at—it's squat and boxy and dull yellow in color—but once it was the home of a corporation that earned $870 million in annual revenues. Today it is part of the residue of the late, great oil boom that affected Midland as much as any oil town in America. In this it is like half a dozen flashier buildings that dot the Midland skyline—all of them built with oil money, all of them constructed because people believed that the oil boom would last, if not forever, then certainly for a good long time. And why shouldn't they have believed it? Wasn't everybody saying that the price of oil was going to keep rising—to $50 or $60 or maybe even $70 a barrel? During the boom there didn't seem to be any reason to doubt that, especially if you lived in Midland. But everybody was wrong; the oil boom couldn't last forever, and by the middle part of 1982 it was over. And today some of those new buildings, like the one at Marienfeld and Michigan, stand as reminders not so much of how good the good times were but rather of how quickly everything fell apart.

    The building was occupied in January 1981, at the height of the boom. When it was first opened, it was called the CPI Building, short for Consolidated Petroleum Industries, which was one of Midland's great recent success stories. Founded in 1978 by a Midland dentist named Jack Young and a...

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