Midland Is Gone

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Only a few houses remain in Midland, waiting to be trucked to Arizona.

Don't Go To Midland---It's Gone

by Charles Hillinger
(Los Angeles) Times Staff Writer

The "snow" in the desert is too heavy---so heavy it has wiped out the remote town of Midland. All the people have left---all 1,000 of them. The school is boarded. Post office and store have been hauled away. Only 48 of the 313 houses still stand.

Midland was a U.S. Gypsum Co. town for 43 years, an isolated community 22 miles north of Blythe by narrow road. Midland produced plasterboard walls for thousands of homes across the nation.

The gypsum deposit in Little Maria Mountains two miles west of town was one of the best.

"But the character of the gypsum (snow) deposit in recent years made it no longer economically competitive," reports Kenneth Hepler, former plant manager. "The 'snow' at Midland was too heavy. Lighter material was needed for wallboard."

Midland was started in 1925 as a tent city, with miners in the middle of the Mojave Desert digging gypsum out of the Little Marias to meet the demands of movie studios. All the winter scenes during the golden age of Hollywood were filmed with "snowflakes" from Midland.

By early next year nothing will be left of Midland. U.S. Gypsum has decided to erase it rather than let the town and the plant stand idle, deteriorate and possibly crumble with time. The plant has been leveled. The houses have been sold and are being moved to Blythe and Parker, Ariz.

"I spent 45 years in Midland," said Cecill Lopez, 61, who arrived in 1925 to help build the first buildings, worked here all through the years and then stayed on to help destroy the town. "It's sad to see it go. A lifetime of memories. My four kids went to school here. All our friends lived here. I wonder where they all went."

Most Midland employees were transferred to other divisions of the nation-wide firm.

"They're scattered from Boston to Los Angeles," said Hepler, the former plant manager.

Desert Silence

Heat shimmers up from the dry valley gripped by barren brown mountains. Three little clumps of houses still stand. The plant is a giant pile of rubble.

The slide at the school is rusting. Paint is peeling from the hop-scotch courts. The corrugated tin rips loose from the school roof with each gust of wind.

Scrawled in chalk on the school cement patio are farewells from children: "Donnie Lazzaroto lived here 11 years."

On a nearby sidewalk scribbled in cement: "Daphne."

Well, Daphne, your house is gone. That big tree in the back yard has blown over. The lawn is dead.

Midland is dead.

excerpts from a November 2, 1970 LA Times article by Charles Hillinger

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