Corbin Oil Company
Amy Lungren Shoffner offers the following history.
Oil Companies: The Red Ball Oil Company was located in Barr’s Addition just south of the depot -- to the west of the Hunter Milling Co. Part of the oil warehouse was destroyed by fire in the 1920’s. A group of Corbin businessmen, one being Lester Hoppes, bought out Red Ball and renamed it Corbin Oil Company . After graduating from Business College in Tulsa, a young E.C. Wilson (Woody), who grew up in Corbin, worked as bookkeeper at the Corbin State Bank . A short time later, in the mid 1930’s, he was hired as the manager and bookkeeper of Corbin Oil Company. His office was in the NW corner of the Corbin State Bank. Woody continued managing the oil company to the end of WWII (1945) or until it was purchased by Jerie Murphy.
The Corbin Oil Company warehouse was located on the later site of the buildings of the Rice Oil and Corbin Service Station (L.R. Black), two blocks south. Mobil Oil and Mobilgas was purchased from the refinery at Augusta. During those years, Demis Whitten, Ralph (Rusty) Watts, and Vernon Lacey worked for Corbin Oil Company.
Corbin Oil Fire – On August 6, 1945, a storage building, which was the remaining building of the former Red Ball facility, south of the Depot burned. Gloria Wilson Fuhrmann recalls that "LaGrant Watts was there and he risked his life and ran into the burning building, started the fuel transport truck and managed to drive it out of the burning building. There was a great loss of some hard-to-find tires and oil."
From a letter to Marcus Hoppes in the Navy from his mother,
Lorena Hoppes in Caldwell dated August 7, 1945:
“Last night about 6:30 p.m. the fire whistle blew and we didn’t think much about it. Margaret Frances Overall called and said the Corbin Oil Co. was on fire. I immediately called Corbin Central Telephone Operator and she said it was the storage tanks up by the depot. One had already exploded and had blown off the top, but no one was hurt. We got ready and made a rush for Corbin. We could see the smoke as soon as we got out of Caldwell. All three tanks and the building burned and also Ralph Watts’ truck. LeGrant Watts had been out with Ralph’s truck delivering gas and he had come in and driven into the shed up by the depot to load and take out some more orders. He was filling the tank and all at once he saw fire all around him and he “skinned up” and over the truck and out the door and got out with only being singed a little. He had to go through fire to get out. I sure was glad that there was no one hurt and I don’t blame LeGrant as it might have happened to any one. Ralph and his wife, Finace, had gone to Enid and had left LeGrant in charge. Demis Whitten (who worked for the Oil Company) said there were thousands of gallons of gas, the building, the three tanks, and Ralph’s truck burned. There was a big crowd, the fire companies from Caldwell and Wellington and people from far and near saw the fire and came to see what it was. The smoke rolled up so big and black and they stopped the trains from passing through Corbin for several hours. We stayed over an hour and they thought the fire would burn all night.”
Jerome Niebaum recalls: "I actually remember the Corbin Oil Fire. That evening Barbara Schlottog and I were playing together outside at our house across from the grocery store. I guess we would have been about ages 5 and 6 at that time. We saw and smelled smoke and ran to main street to see what it was. The northern half of Corbin was covered with thick black smoke and we could see the flames from the fire. LaGrant did get the truck out and I remember he had singed all the hair off his arms in the process. It is the only fire I remember from my years in Corbin."
Some of the Corbin Oil delivery truck drivers were Louis Valdois, Rusty Watts and Frank France. In the early1940’s, Jerie and Beatrice Murphy started the Murphy Oil Company. After the war, Murphy Oil Co. bought out Corbin Oil and relocated it at the Corbin Oil bulk station site on Main Street. Woody Wilson stayed a while and when he left, Beatrice Murphy started keeping the books. Woody continued farming east of Corbin.
In 1947, Bob Rice bought in with Jerie and Beatrice Murphy and the business was renamed Corbin Oil, Inc. The Murphys sold out to Bob Rice in the 60’s. In 1975, Corbin Oil Inc. was renamed Rice Oil Co when Bob became a distributor for Mobil Oil. In 1976, he became a distributor for Getty Oil also. Within a few years, Bob’s sons Bill and Brent joined Rice Oil. Brent bought the Corbin service station from Pauline Black in 1984. In 1994, Scott Rice joined his brother Brent while Bill left the business prior to Bob’s death. Rice Oil Co. officially closed in the late 1990’s.