December 2007

Fifty years and still going strong

Don DePugh recently achieved a record here at Gulf Publishing: 50 continuous years of service.

Vol. 228 No. 12

Fifty years and still going strong

Don DePugh recently achieved a record here at Gulf Publishing: 50 continuous years of service. Don earned a liberal arts degree in English from St. Thomas University. He began working at Gulf Publishing shortly thereafter in December 1958 and has remained here ever since.

Although Don set the record, longevity at Gulf Publishing is not unique to him. Bob Scott, World Oil editor in 1968, then publisher and CEO, gave us 41 years; Sam Sorrell, who was Don’s mentor in advertising and sales worldwide, stayed 37 years; and Bob Rust, also known as Mr. Composite Catalog, was an icon at GPC for 45 years.

Don today-sharp as ever. 

We don’t know why our small company garners such loyalty. Perhaps it is generated from the principles of honor and integrity embodied in a family atmosphere of caring-it was, after all, a family-owned business from 1916 until 2000. It’s a slice of Americana thought to be long past, but that lives on here.

Don has a well developed sense of humor. He started as a technical editor with Pipe Line Industry (which later became Pipe Line & Gas Industry), where he remained for 10 years, until, as Don puts it, “they finally realized that I couldn’t spell, so they transferred me into sales.”

Don was an avid golfer for many years and terrorized his customers on the fairways, although he says he was an excellent golfer with only two handicaps, “lack of course knowledge and skill.”

He says he’s not playing as much these days. “Golf is a hard game to predict. One day I go out and slice it and shank it, hit into all the traps and miss every green. The next day I go out and, for no reason at all, I really stink.”

Over 50 years, Don has seen a lot of things come and go. “In the Fifties, I can remember that the price of oil was around $2 a barrel, and gasoline was about 25 cents a gallon.

“I needed a hefty $50 advance for my first trip out of town-two days in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I made it home with change to spare.

“Imagine Houston without the Offshore Technology Conference. In those days, the industry had the International Petroleum Exhibition, which was held in Tulsa. This show was eventually replaced by the OTC.

“The 1970s was a very volatile period for the oil industry. First, the oil embargo and the spike in oil prices to $20/barrel, which led to shortages in the US and long lines at the gas pump. The country began conservation methods to reduce dependence on foreign oil. A theory became more popular that the world was running out of oil. US-Iran relations became hostile during the hostage crises, and oil shot up to nearly $40 a barrel in 1980, which is about where it is today, adjusted for inflation.

Don being awarded a plaque for his service as president of the Pipeliners Club by John Green, president of Shell Pipeline. At left is Mel Judah, Don’s first editor and the man who hired him. 

“The industry reached its peak in the early 1980s in terms of companies, rig utilization and wells drilled. For instance, the OTC had over 100,000 attendance, with over 2,000 companies exhibiting. The Composite Catalog of Oil Field Equipment & Services reached its peak in the 1982-83 edition with over 850 companies and 8,000 pages of catalog data.

Don DePugh editing a 1962 issue of Pipe Line Industry. 

“Beginning in 1982, oil prices began to decline, eventually plummeting to single digits by 1986. The industry downsized and mergers among service companies were a monthly event. Oil companies were formulating drilling models for $10 oil. The industry bottomed out that year and began its slow growth back to where we are today.”

Congratulations Don, for giving all of us 50 outstanding years. Incidentally, this isn’t some sort of swan song-Don is not retiring. In fact, he plans to be here for another 50!




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