INSIDE THE OA ARCHIVES: 50s saw drug use come to Ector County

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of stories that will take a look back into the archives of the Odessa American through The full archive contains more than 1.4 million pages of the Odessa American. Visit the OA website at to sign up for

The May 14, 1948, front page details the announcement of a new Jewish state in Palestine that immediately set off fierce Arab-Jewish fighting for Jerusalem. The formal proclamation declared to the world that a new Jewish republic called Israel had been born, and would be defended against all enemies.

In national news, President Truman asked Congress to pass long-range farm legislation geared to the greatly increased productive capacity of American farms. Truman emphasized that the fundamental national policy should aim for "organized, sustained, realistic abundance."

The comics page that day featured "Our Boarding House” and "Joe Palooka," and an ad for the Local Talent Carnival promised “fun for all" at the County Barns the next night. There would be games, favors for the kids, popcorn, balloons, a shooting gallery and more. 

By May 14, 1952, recreational drug use was on the rise in Ector County and the front-page headline read, “Big Marijuana Ring Smashed In Odessa." Police and a “mysterious undercover agent" arrested eight Odessans and recovered 22 "sticks" of weed.

On that date, several local shops were getting ready for the upcoming “Dollar Day" sale. Victory Home Equipment Company on East Fourth Street had over 1,500 new phonograph records for only 25 cents each, while The Fair Department Store boasted five pairs of men’s canvas work gloves for only a $1. 

That week, the Cactus Drive-In Theatre was showing Cecil B. DeMille’s masterpiece, "Samson and Delilah," along with a "Musical Bandit" cartoon.

On May 14, 1966, the front page reported that a jury had convicted Delbert Winston Jones guilty of “murder with malice" in the Nov. 19 slaying of a young expectant mother, 17-year-old Martha Garcia. Although Jones was tried only for the woman’s killing, her 19-year-old husband was also brutally beaten to death in the couple’s small Monahans apartment several months earlier. At the time, under Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure, Jones could have chosen either the court or the jury to determine his punishment, and he chose to leave his fate in the hands of Judge J.H. Starley. It was yet to be determined if Jones would be sent to jail or the electric chair.

In other Permian Basin crimes news, Odessa police were looking for three men who conned a 75-year-old man out of more than $3,000 in savings. Local authorities were actively searching for the men, but expressed doubt they would find them. 

Meanwhile at the Permian High School diamond, the 2-4A champion Panthers were scheduled to entertain the Odessa High Bronchos in an intra-city battle later that afternoon.

The scarehead on May 14, 1976, screamed, “Senator Claims CIA, FBI Lied On JFK Death," just as another caption read "Intelligence Committee To Reopen Investigation Of Assassination."

Not interesting enough? How about this headline? “12-Year Old Girl Runs Her Own Extortion Racket." According to the front-page brief, "Mary made a little dough, ’till her victim blew the lid." The poor victim was 11-year-old Johnny, a fellow sixth-grader in Mary’s class. Johnny finally told his mother of the girl’s “sophisticated extortion racket" after Mary plagued him with threatening messages coded by numbers, so that "MONEY" became "13-15-14-5-25."

During that time, the Seattle police weren’t sure what to call it, but extortion seemed to fit the bill. Today, I’m sure we would call it bullying. 

On May 14, 1985, we find that the Philadelphia city government stuffed explosives into a satchel, flew a helicopter over a home on Osage Avenue, and dropped the bomb on top of it, making the entire area a "war zone." The attempt to get rid of MOVE, a radical liberation group living in the home, turned into a fiery inferno that killed 11 people and destroyed a neighborhood of more than 60 homes.

We also find that in Florida, Laura Elena Herring, a 21-year-old brunette from Texas, became the first Mexican-American and the first naturalized citizen ever to win the Miss USA title.

The OA on May 14, 1998, was filled with local news, from education to sports, and even a little entertainment. A front-page article revealed that parents and teachers of Nimitz Junior High students voted to require students to wear uniforms. And a “Sports Extra” detailed Odessa High senior Brent Callaway’s goal to clear 17 feet or higher to win the gold medal in the Class 5A pole vault at the UIL State Track and Field Championships that weekend in Austin.

In TV news, Jerry and the gang prepared to sign off the airwaves that night following the final “Seinfeld” episode. Several businesses in the area were having viewing parties for the super secret grand finale, including Zucchi’s and Gattiland in Odessa and Cactus Moon in Midland.