Were the Dirty Thirties the Good Old Days?

Posted with permission of Gloria Jean. Original article appeared in the Huckaby Times (Cousin Newsletter), April 2004

On Sunday April 14th, 1935, the sun came up in a clear sky. The day was warm and pleasant, a gentle breeze whimpered out of the southwest. Suddenly a cloud appeared on the horizon. Birds flew swiftly ahead of it, but not swift enough for the cloud traveling at 60 miles per hour. This day, which many people of the area readily remember was named “Black Sunday”.

Robert Luther and Rebecca Suzanne Huckaby were living with her family in the store building Luther had built on South Main Street in Springfield.  The building is pictured below to the right in the photo.

South Main In Springfield with Grandma and Granddad Huckaby's Store on the Right
South Main with Grandma and Granddad Huckaby’s Store on the Right

Jane Huckaby was 10 years old. Wet sheets hung over the heads of the beds to catch the dust as it settled and  windows had wet sheets hanging over them and blankets over the doors. The family tied handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths and stuffed cloth into every crack they could find. During the worst part of the storm, the windows would begin to rattle and Jane and her mother would take wadded up towels and hold them up against the windows to keep them from shaking and getting broken during the worst of the storm.

The cloud appeared on the horizon with a thunderous roar.  Turbulent dust clouds rolled in generally from the North and dumped  a fine silt over the land.  Men, women and children stayed in their houses.   When they dared to leave, they added  goggles to protect their eye.  House were shut tight, cloth was wedged in the cracks of the doors and windows but still the fine silt forced its way into the houses, schools and businesses.  During the storms, the air indoors was “swept” with wet gunny sacks.

In 1935, the weather in the Dust Bowl again made the national headlines.  One storm was followed by another and yet another in rapid succession.  In late March a severe storm  lashed Boise City so hard that many people were stranded for hours.  No one dared to leave a store and head for home although it might less than a block away.

By May, it seemed like the wind and dirt have been blowing for an eternity. Rain was an event occurring only in dreams. It was a year of intense dirt storms, gales, rollers, and floods mixed with economic depression, sickness and disaster. It was a year of extreme hardship.  By  1935 the unusual had become the usual, the extreme became the normal, he exception became the routine.

May 6, 1935 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created to help provide relief to the citizens of the United States who were suffering through the Great Depression.   During 1936, the number of dirt storms increased and the temperature broke the 1934 record by soaring above 120 degrees.

Main Street Springfield
Main Street Springfield

On a pleasant June day in 1936, the ground began to tremble.  A sharp earthquake shook the land from Kenton OK to Perryton TX and from Liberal KS to Stratford TX.  It was not noticed in Springfield.

By the fall of 1936 Robert Luther Huckaby had been working in one of the WPA programs building roads  In 1937 he began working for the county as a janitor and jailer.  Jane Huckaby my mother was about twelve eyars old when the Huckaby family sold the store and moved to the apartment connected ot the courthouse which went with Luther’s job.

The next year was the year of the “snuster”. The snuster was a mixture of dirt and snow reaching blizzard proportions.  The storm cause a tremendous amount of damage and suffering.

Those were the good old days, right?

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