In 1996 I moved to Tampa to work for a company as an engineer. I rented an apartment on Lake Magdelene in north Tampa. Up until the 1950s, most of north Tampa was hundreds and hundreds of acres of orange groves. As Tampa grew continually, it pushed northward into these orange groves.
This area of Tampa was very beautiful, or it had been. There were probably nearly one hundred small lakes, ranging in size from fifty feet across, to Lake Magdelene which was about one mile in length. Besides citrus trees like orange, tangerine, kumquat, lime, and grapefruit trees; banana trees, palm trees, oak trees, oleanders, dense hedges, ornamental plants, ferns, and flowers filled these middle class and upper middle class neighborhoods.
By the time that I moved to Tampa in 1996, Hillsborough County had grown to nearly one million people. At this moment in time, the character of Tampa was about to change significantly. The area north of Tampa, the orange groves and small lakes, was almost completely developed. These very traditional, beautiful, comfortable suburban neighborhoods that had been built from the 1960s through the 1990s were done.
An unbelievable and unprecedented amount of new development began in what was called “New Tampa”, to the north west, on the west side of Interstate 75. On the west side of Interstate 75, there were thousands of acres of cattle pasture and swamp land, this became “New Tampa”.
Every housing development in New Tampa was a “gated community”. You exited Interstate 75 onto Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, and drove west until you reached the entrance to the gated community in which you lived, turned in, and drove through the entrance past the guard house and gate. This entrance was the only way in, and the only way out. Each gated community was surrounded by a combination of walls, earth berms, and tall hedges.
Besides being protected behind the walls, earth berms, and gates, or you could look at it as being a prisoner, which was often the case when you tried to leave in the morning during rush hour, these gated communities featured “McMansion” architecture. “McMansion” architecture is where cheap construction methods and cheap materials are used to create intentionally tall entry ways and high roof peaks, to make a home look enormous and expensive.
I believed that I had arrived in Tampa about twenty years too late. On weekends when I was living on Lake Magdalene, I would ride my bicycle through these beautiful thirty year old neighborhoods, with quiet tree lined streets, natural lakes in the backyards, community tennis courts, and small orange groves here and there.
In these thirty year old neighborhoods, everyone knew everyone on that street, and the next streets over. Husbands and wives bought one of these houses when they were in their thirties, and stayed there even after their kids moved out, they retired, and became old.
Some of these houses were large five bedroom, three bathroom houses, but most of these houses were modest and unpretentious. Due to the economy and nature of Tampa, with large corporations, an international airport, McDill AFB, international sea port, and professional sports teams, neighbors would have been doctors, lawyers, engineers, airline pilots, military officers, ship captains, or professional athletes.
For adults in these neighborhoods, especially the wives, it would have been very enjoyable to be able to socialize with so many other adults with similar education, professional level, income level, interests, and values. Parents in these neighborhoods did not have to worry very much about where their kids were, because all of the parents watched all of these kids.
After school, and in the summer, the kids in these neighborhoods, could have gone swimming, fishing, canoeing, water skiing, sailing, or played tennis. I don’t think there would be any question that each of these kids was expecting and planning on going to college, because that is what all of the other kids did, and that is what everyone’s parents had done. There would not have been aimless, depressed, self-destructive, drug addict, hoodlum kids around.
So I would have liked to have been either a kid or an adult living in one of these middle class neighborhoods in north Tampa from 1960 to 1990. I think that I would have been happier as a kid or an adult living among peers with the same interests, values, beliefs, and goals, in this warm, safe, beautiful environment, doing things that I like to do. But after 1990, no way, Tampa became too huge and overwhelming.
I want to point out, that these middle class adults who lived in Tampa from 1960 through 1990, with their education, professionalism, values, beliefs, interests, and goals, they caused Tampa to thrive, and double in size. Though these adults created and loved their quiet, peaceful, happy, suburban neighborhoods on the north side of Tampa, the growth that they caused, changed the character of Tampa, to something that they would not have liked, the “gated communities” with the “McMansions”. However, they would have acknowledged there was no way to be able to stop this, it was inevitable.
I also want to point out, that the kids who grew up in these beautiful, safe, fun, middle class neighborhoods on the north side of Tampa, where everyone’s parents went to college, and everyone was going to go to college, that these kids were so solidly grounded, that I think that they could do O.K. living anywhere. What I mean is, I think these kids all turned out so well due to the constant positive influence of their peers and the other parents, that I think these kids as adults could cope with living in an unpleasant city or urban area. ( I base this belief on my experiences attending the University of Florida on a campus with what was then 35,000 students, where some students thrived and some students could not cope, not because of intelligence level, but because of their backgrounds.)
When I was living in Flagstaff, Arizona, which I loved, I also felt that I arrived there twenty to thirty years too late. To save time, I could say that everything about Flagstaff was wonderful. However, beginning in about year 2000, real estate prices began to skyrocket. And from what I have been told, growth has just continued non-stop to this day, making not just the price of real estate a problem, but now over development is a problem too.
The best, most enjoyable years to live in Flagstaff, were probably the 1960s through the 1990s. The town, the forests, the mountains, the beauty, the lifestyle, the people, the weather were all so enjoyable, that this is what led to real estate skyrocketing, and the over development. It was just inevitable.
Finally, getting to what this blog post was supposed to be about, “The Best Seven Years For Dickinson, North Dakota.” From 2007 through 2014, there was an Oil Boom in Dickinson, North Dakota. Though there was an “Exploration Boom” in North Dakota in the 1950s, and there was a “Gas Price Oil Boom” in North Dakota in the 1970s, this most recent oil boom has had the most significant and greatest impact on Dickinson.
How can I say that 2007 through 2014 was “The Best Seven Years For Dickinson” ? To begin, prior to 2007, the average hourly wage in Dickinson was probably about $8 per hour, with no opportunity to work overtime. There were very few job openings, and very few opportunities to get a higher paying job. There was no way for most Dickinson residents to get ahead financially. It would have been difficult for most Dickinson residents to even be able to save enough money to get out of Dickinson and try to move some place else.
In addition to there being mostly only low paying jobs, with very few opportunities to get a higher paying job, everything in Dickinson was controlled. The wealthy families in Dickinson, and the influential families in Dickinson, controlled who got hired, who got fired, who got a promotion, who got demoted, who got recognition, who got blame, who got arrested, who was not prosecuted, who got a home loan, who got a car loan, who was evicted, and so forth.
When the Oil Boom began in 2007, it was almost like the Dickinson residents were released from bondage. There was such a demand for workers in the oil field, that any able bodied person in Dickinson could get a job immediately for at least $16 per hour, which is about twice the average hourly pay of $8 per hour, plus, they might be allowed to work as much as 40 hours of overtime each week.
Some Dickinson residents, who were in their forties, who had always been kept down in Dickinson, always receiving low pay, never getting a promotion, never being able to get a better job, never being able to get a home loan, all of a sudden went from making $320 per week, to making $2,000 per week. And for once, there was no wealthy or influential family in Dickinson who could stop them.
When the Oil Boom began, a graduating high school student who would not have been able to find a job in Dickinson, could now get a job earning as much as $1,400 per week working in the oil field. A graduating high school student who would have had no car, and had to live with his parents, could now get a job working in the oil field, buy a very nice truck, and rent their own apartment.
Once the Oil Boom began in Dickinson, young couples were each able to obtain good employment, get married, and buy their own home. Older couples were each able to obtain good employment, pay off their credit card debt, pay off their car loans, and pay off their home loans.
Due to families in Dickinson owning farms, or having retained mineral rights, oil well lease signing checks and revenue checks, began earning many families in Dickinson thousands or tens of thousands of dollars each month. Farmers purchased completely new farm equipment, trucks, and travel trailers. Some families dispersed this monthly oil revenue money to their children and grandchildren. Many family members in Dickinson receiving oil revenue money purchased new vehicles, motorcycles, travel trailers, did home remodels, or paid for their kids to go to college.
Due to the amount of oil field work in and around Dickinson, many new large warehouse buildings were built, new office buildings were built, new restaurants were built, a new shopping center was built. About five new hotels and fifteen new apartment buildings were built. Local land owners, real estate agents, and construction companies made money on these new building projects. Some local residents started and grew their own oil field service companies and construction companies.
During this Oil Boom, the City of Dickinson was able to build one of the nicest recreation centers in the World. It has two indoor swimming pools, one outdoor swimming pool, skateboard park, ice skating rink, two indoor tennis courts, three indoor racketball courts, four indoor basketball courts, one volleyball court, indoor golf simulator, rock climbing wall, indoor track, cardiovascular equipment area, weight lifting gym, aerobics studios, and child day care.
The City of Dickinson was able to build a new Police Department, have a new water tower, pave many roads, widen roads, add stop lights, build a new school, and have a new County Fairground.
Would I have wanted to be in Dickinson from 2007 through 2014? Yes, I would have, especially if I would have been a resident of Dickinson. I was in Dickinson on and off from 2011 until now in 2018.
Unlike my story about getting to Tampa too late, where Tampa kept growing and growing, or my story about getting to Flagstaff too late where Flagstaff kept growing and growing, I got to Dickinson too late, because Dickinson is contracting.
In my stories about Tampa and Flagstaff, conditions in these towns were so good, that it was inevitable that they would grow. In Dickinson, conditions are so bad, that it is seems inevitable that Dickinson will decline.
One of the reasons why I am writing this particular blog post, and the way that I am writing it, is because the people in Dickinson do not know that 2007 to 2014 will likely be the best years that Dickinson has ever had, or will have. I began with the two stories about Tampa and Flagstaff, to explain the inevitability of places changing, even if you do not want them to go in the direction that they are going in.
In the case of Tampa, there was so much continued growth because of the regional economy, low cost of living, good climate, recreation, entertainment, night life, fine dining, shopping, professional football, professional baseball, professional hockey, international airport, international sea port, U.S. Central Command McDill AFB, and the University of South Florida.
In Flagstaff, the continued growth had nothing to do with the regional economy or cost of living, neither of which are very good, it was the beauty of the town, the Coconino National Forest, the snow skiing, trail hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, the clear blue skies during the winter, the nightlife, friendly downtown, diverse and well educated population, low crime and no riff-raff hoodlums.
In Dickinson, after the Oil Boom ended in 2015, many of the oil field jobs went away, many oil field workers returned to the states where they came from, and subsequently other jobs went away in other areas of the economy. The amount of oil field jobs continue to decrease, as do other jobs in other areas of the economy in Dickinson. As there are fewer jobs in Dickinson, and a greater supply of workers than demand for workers, we are seeing the wage rates steadily decrease in Dickinson.
As there are fewer oil field jobs, fewer jobs in other areas, and wage rates are decreasing, the old practices of nepotism, favoritism, discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion in hiring, promotion, lay offs, and home lending are beginning to emerge again in Dickinson.
The people in Dickinson are unfriendly, the Police in Dickinson are encouraging people to leave Dickinson, the Police in Dickinson are discouraging people from going out at night, the restaurants are not very good, the restaurant servers are not very nice, there is shortage of women, there is scarcity of attractive women, the real estate prices are high, the real estate prices are likely to fall, there is too much crime in Dickinson, little entertainment, few recreation activities, and it is cold and grey for about seven months of the year in Dickinson.
The population of Dickinson is decreasing, Dickinson is contracting, and this is just going to continue. The people in Dickinson refuse to see this or acknowledge this. Some people believe the Oil Boom will come back.
In order for Dickinson to not contract, Dickinson would have to be a place where people would want to move, and stay. Here are some changes that would be needed:
- The Police in Dickinson need to find a way to stop the crime and drug dealing in Dickinson, without following, surveilling, and stopping non-criminal, law abiding people.
- The Police in Dickinson need to find a way to allow adults to go out to restaurants and sports bars at night to socialize, without following, surveilling, and stopping them on their way home.
- The people in Dickinson need to stop being mean and nasty to other people in general, and to cease nepotism, favoritism, prejudice, discrimination, and exclusion in hiring, firing, promotion, and bank lending.
- The people in Dickinson need to stop being out-of-their minds as far as real estate prices in Dickinson.
- The banks in Dickinson need to grant home loans to people who demonstrate that they can make the mortgage payments.
- The restaurants in Dickinson need to stop using jaded, rough, mean drug addict women as servers, especially the ones from Spokane, Seattle, and Coeur D’Alene.
- Dickinson needs to be a city that promotes health, such as hygiene, exercise, and fitness, and discourages smoking, tobacco, illegal drugs, over use of alcohol, and over eating.
- Dickinson needs to be a city that promotes education, awareness, and spirituality, and discourages ignorance, hate, and Catholicism.
- Dickinson needs to be a city that encourages women to be beautiful and friendly, and discourages women from being ugly, glaring, and scowling.
- Dickinson might need to have a strip bar, just so men can see what women are supposed to look like, maybe they have never seen one, or they have forgotten what they look like.
- Dickinson needs to have a good Italian restaurant.