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
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.
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.