I don’t carry many keys. Working at home has that distinct advantage, and combination/electronic locks of various kinds are becoming pretty standard. I do wonder about the impact this has on the keyring industry, though. Not a fan of bulky rings of keys and fobs in my pocket I tend to stick to novelty keyrings for entertainment purposes only. A few years back, before we’d considered moving to Pennsylvania, we picked one up that was shaped like, well, the Keystone State. Laid out like a tiny, very large scale map, it lists the big cities and some tourist sites. Since you seldom hear people say, “I’m going to Pennsylvania for vacation” you might well wonder about the latter. The reason that we bought this novelty was one of the places listed: Oil City.
Currently around the 82nd most populous city in the commonwealth, Oil City isn’t a place most folks would look for. It is near the birthplace of the oil industry, thus its name, but it doesn’t seem to have the tourist draw to merit a keyring fob. I grew up very near Oil City, and I attended Oil City High School. It’s a pleasant enough town, although it has been ravaged by big box stores that left its downtown the haunt of ghost store fronts. Many of the big boxes then left because the area has been economically depressed for decades. It’s an example of the kind of victims that capitalism tends to leave behind. The fob on which this “map” is printed is plastic, likely a byproduct of petroleum. That industry had its start in this area and when larger oil fields were found elsewhere it simply moved on.
The keyring had been stuffed into a box within a box, well forgotten before we moved to Pennsylvania. While going through some things the other day, it surfaced once again. I had a key needing a ring, so it was put to use in its native state. Often I ponder how oil has played into my life. Pennzoil still had a headquarters in the area, and refineries dotted the river valleys, but larger fields with bigger payoffs lay to the south. My gypsy-like family didn’t settle in the region because of oil. Not part of the petroleum industry, we simply lived in its shadow. I haven’t visited the area for a few years now, at least not to appreciate the life of a town that helped initiate the modern world, but then was quickly forgotten. Even keyrings can tell a story.