Norco’s 75th birthday celebrated at Motiva

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 14, 2000

NORCO – Norco celebrated its 75th birthday Saturday, and Shell/Motiva threw the party.

It was Shell that was largely responsible for changing the name of the tiny village of Sellers to Norco back in the 1920s. Shell had come in and boughtout the old New Orleans Refining Co., and the acronym commemorates thatlink with the past.

Hundreds came to the Employees’ Club on River Road to enjoy soft drinks, hamburgers, jambalaya, chili dogs, chips and cookies, hosted by T. AllenKirkley, chief administrative officer of Motiva.

Free tours followed all afternoon of the adjoining refinery and the River Road Museum established by Motiva to celebrate industry’s impact on the River Parishes.

Lilly Galland of Motiva recalled that some residents had never been inside the refinery’s fenceline and added the community’s once-intimate link with the plant isn’t what it was.

With the tours, however, Galland hoped, “The more educated they are about what we do, the better they’ll feel.”For most of its history the Shell plant was virtually synonymous with Norco itself, with employees living on the plant property in plant-supplied housing.

There was also a movie theater, golf course, baseball field and bowling alley, and annual Plant Day picnics reinforced that intimate relationship.

Over the years, as major industries moved away from that paternal relationship with employees and their families, the emotional bond was hurt.

“Back in the 1980s we once had five generations working here at the same time,” Galland recalled.

This day, though, many long-time Norco residents felt right at home.

As each resident arrived, invited by a mass mailout to Norco households, each received a gift bag containing a T-shirt, ball cap, first aid kit, key chain, pencil and other items.

Then all the visitors, including several parish officials, lined up and moved through the food line. The Norco Civic Association and Norco Adult Day Careeach had booths highlighting their activities.

Balloons with Shell, Motiva and Shell Chemical decorated the hall, and the hundreds who attended throughout the day seemed to enjoy their visit with an old friend.

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