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Blue-collar refinery workers, like autoworkers of that period, were fairly well paid.

"Lots of working-class boys' dads bought them new cars," says Moriaty.

Dwarfed by oil refineries, chemical plants, and row after row of huge, squat oil-storage tanks, the town seemed like an afterthought to this vast industrial sprawl.

At night when the burning flares from the refineries turned the sky "an eerie doomsday red" the place even looked like hell on earth.

Patti Skaff blames the cultural drought on middle-class Port Arthurans who "didn't really have much of an idea of what to do except to buy a new car every other year." After all, she says, "look where they built their first country club—directly below a refinery." Moriaty has a different explanation.