News from Midland

I want to thank Roger Sharpe for the emails that describe so much about what has happened recently in the town where I grew up. We who lived in Midland and grew up there shared something special. I am very thankful that we are now able to share our stories and memories.

With Roger's permission, I am able to share with you his emails that were very exciting for me to read. He also forwarded to me some photos that were sent to him by Gerry Burkhard. The aerial photo, and three photos on the "Past and Present" page are Gerry's.

 Roger writes:








I'm the Manager of Geological Services for U. S. Gypsum Company. I'm
based at the corporate headquarters in Chicago, but I work with
geological and mining engineering projects for all of USG's mining
operations. Unofficially, I'm a collector of information on USG's
mining history.

In addition, I make periodic visits to the Midland, CA town/mine site.
We monitor the condition of the old underground mine openings and
whether there are people visiting them.

In 2001, USG entered an agreement with the U. S. Marines to allow for
the use of part of the old town site for a command post for a large-scale
military exercise. I was the company's liaison with the Marines for the
exercise (1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton). A few months later the
Marines deployed to Kuwait and ultimately Iraq. One of the officer's
that I was working with had already been in Afghanistan and said that
the Midland area was very similar in terrain and climate. A few weeks
ago, I heard indirectly, through the Marine's archaeologist, that the
actual conditions encountered during their movement to Baghdad wasn't as
severe as their time in the Midland area.

The portion on the military exercise is fairly important and significant.
USG was approached in late 2001 regarding the use of the old Midland
town site as a command post for a large-scale "command and control" military
exercise. The Marines moved over 600 vehicles from Twentynine Palms to the
Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. This also involved the construction of a
floating bridge across the Colorado River. The exercise was named "Desert
and was covered fairly well in the press. This was a large
"computer simulation" in that there were all types of skirmishes being
simulated within about a 40-mile radius of the old town site. There was a
simulated helicopter assault on the town site. The exercise was to test the
ability of the Marines to move rapidly across difficult desert terrain and
see how far the lines of communication, command and control could be
stretched. Little did we know that just a few months later the 1st Marine
Division would be deployed to Kuwait and ultimately Iraq. Ms. Barbara
Giacomini, the archaeologist that works with the Marines, told me that she
saw some of the same Marines that we were with on a segment of CBS's 48
Hours. The unit shown were the Marine combat engineers and the segment
showed the construction of a floating bridge across the Euphrates River near

USG has closed two of its underground mining operations in the last couple
of years. I worked at the Plasterco, Virginia operation for four years and
have been involved with ongoing work there since the mine was completely
closed and the plant was demolished. It is interesting that USG has several
operations that are at least 100 years old. The Plasterco, VA and the
Oakfield, NY operations were at least 100 years old. The Alabaster, MI;
Southard, OK; Fort Dodge, IA; and Sweetwater, TX operations are all 100
years or older.

I'm very interested in learning more about the mining history and life of
the company towns. I'm very familiar with the Plasterco, VA operation and
have scanned many of the old photographs into digital format. I recently
sent some of the photos to a local museum that wanted to do an exhibit for
the this Labor Day.


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