Friday, April 8, 2011

Chapter 16 Dust and Depression

We were not always desperados with BB guns. Sometimes my best friend, George Harold Graham, and I would go down to visit with an old black woman who lived in a little shack down the alley from us. I have forgotten her name, but I’m sure it was Ruby. One day, she asked George Harold and me if we could shoot any sparrows.

Well, could we! How many did she want? She said to bring her what we could shoot that afternoon. Well, George Harold and I brought her about fifteen or twenty sparrows a few hours later. We asked her what she was going to do with them. She said, “Boys, you are wonderful. I am going to have the best sparrow pie, and I will save some for you.” We declined.

Remember this was in the middle of the great depression, a time when many people would go days without any food to eat. The banks had all failed and the money people had was whatever they had in their pocket when the bank closed. When that ran out, there was none. It was a really tough time, lots of suicides and breaking up of families. My family was lucky because Dad had his own business. In 1933 a program was started called the Works Progress Administration that put people back to work in construction jobs. Dad was able to give men jobs under this program and his company survived.

clip_image002[1]Of course, there was no TV then, but we had a radio. My favorites were The Shadow, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie and Jack Armstrong, the all American boy. I sent off for a secret ring. They would give you a code at the end of each program, and with your secret ring, you could decode the message and find out what the next episode was going to be about.

Dick Tracy had a watch that you could talk to someone else without any wires or anything. Flash Gordon actually blasted off into space, can you imagine that! We knew this stuff was just making believe and nothing like that would ever happen.

The panhandle of Texas was part of the dust bowl of the thirties. The dust storms were staggering and in the fall of 1934 we had a doozer. We were at a polo game out north of town when a huge brown cloud started appearing on the northern horizon. We later learned this one was 8000 feet high and moving at 65 miles per hour. We had already experienced a number of dust storms and everyone knew what was coming. The game ended and everyone started their cars to leave and try to get home before it hit.

Dad’s friend next to us could not get his car started so Dad was pushing his car with clip_image002ours when it hit. It was like God turned the sun off and it was black as night. It was so thick we could not breathe; mom put a wet handkerchief over my mouth and it helped a little. Dad had turned his headlights on and you could not even see the car in front of us that we were pushing. His friend’s car finally started and we crept our way home.

We had a new house with weather stripping but, after one of these storms the sand would be banked up in the corners and of course everything was covered with sand. All the furniture, the bed sheets, the food and dishes, everything was full of sand. Mom put covers over the beds to keep the sand out of the sheets. The atmosphere, even in the house, was sort of hazy. There was no way to get away from it; you just lived with it until it was over.

This storm lasted for three days and we all had grit in our mouth and sand in our eyes. Everyone just had to hunker down until it was over. Finally the sun began reappear and the town came to life again. We must have added about an inch of Oklahoma and Kansas on the ground in Lubbock that week.

Photo of circa 1920 radio found here.

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