Whiting’s Christmas Star

Frank Vargo
November 2018

As we listen to traditional Christmas carols or watch Clark Griswold as he sees the “Christmas Star” in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, we are reminded of the story of the Biblical Christmas star. This is the star that led the three Magi or Wise Men to the place where a newborn king was lying in a manger.

The star has been talked about for centuries and has been a part of the Christmas story for generations. In days of old, people placed lighted candles in their windows to represent the Christmas star. Today our brightly colored lights and outdoor displays serve the same purpose.

How did the city of Whiting get its own Christmas star? We can thank the Standard Oil Company (as well as Amoco and BP for carrying on the tradition) for making our Yuletide holiday a little brighter.

The article above was published in the Whiting Refinery News on November 26, 1955.

Actually, Standard Oil gave us two stars. Both are located near the top of the 200-foot tall Number 600 Cat Cracker. One star faces the west while the other is located on the south side of the Cracker. On a clear December night, their light can be seen for well over two miles. The stars are usually lit on Thanksgiving Day and remain that way until the 12th day of Christmas, January 6.

When did this all begin? No one knows exactly. The best guess is either 1953 or 1954. Carl Horecky, a long-time employee of Standard Oil and later Amoco, believed it was in 1954. He said that by 1957 it was already a permanent part of the Christmas season.

Lee Evans, who worked at Standard and Amoco from 1945 to 1978 in the Electrical Department and later as Superintendent of Engineering and Maintenance, said the first stars were made of lumber with light sockets for individual bulbs., some even flashing at one point. The stars came down every year and were put into storage until the next season. For the 1956 Christmas season, Mr. Evans had redesigned the stars. They now had a metal frame with fluorescent light tubes.

Card #12 in the Life of Whiting Series by artist Mitch Markovitz shows the stars on top of the refinery’s cat cracker.

Just a few years ago, newer and even brighter fluorescent lights increased the visibility of the Christmas Stars of Whiting so people over a wider area could enjoy this symbol of the Christmas season.

In 2009, Mitch Markovitz painted an original watercolor of the Cat Cracker with its stars. The card is #12 in the Life of Whiting Series and is available, along with many others, for purchase at the Whiting/Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce, 1417 119th Street, for $5.00.