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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Amarillo in thick of Dust Bowl

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
"Amarillo - The Story Of A Western Town" by Paul H. Carlson is a must read for old-timers and those who arrived later. Most who have lived in the Panhandle very long remember seeing or hearing of our most notorious history, but few know the little details of how and why the stories unfolded. The book is a treasure chest of details based on published fact.
For example, in March of 1933 banks across the nation closed down for two weeks, including the four banks in Amarillo. But, when the nation's banks reopened - and in direct contrast to most of the rest of America where thousands of customers withdrew their money - the people of Amarillo stood in line to deposit nearly $1,435,000, showing their faith in their banks.

Almost unknown to most, but still beneficial today, was the National Industrial Recovery Act which established codes of "fair practices," creating a uniform system of working hours and wages. Participating businesses also adopted many standard ethical practices which are followed closely today.
The most enduring act of the New Deal Programs was the Social Security Act of 1935. The Banking Act of that same year strengthened the Federal Reserve System with regulation and deposit insurance protecting depositors. Farm foreclosures were almost stopped with The Emergency Farm Mortgage Act of 1933. These programs along with the WPA and the CCC put America back to work again and prospering.
Texas Panhandle dust storm,  April 1935
The dust storm of April 1935
Photo courtesy Louise George
Just how bad was the drought during the Dust Bowl? Agricultural historian Dr. Gary L. Nall wrote that nine of the years from 1929 to 1940, rainfall was below average with only 9.96 inches falling in 1933 and 1934. Insignificant but true, I was born in June of 1933 right after a bad dust storm which required a damp diaper to be placed over my bassinet. My father often laughed saying, "he thought every bad thing had already happened that year and then I came along."

Dr. Nall verified that Panhandle residents experienced some 192 dusters from January 1933 to February 1936. What was the worst dust storm of all? Most agree it occurred on March 3, 1933. For Amarillo residents the most dramatic dust storm rolled in about mid-afternoon on April 14, 1935. To many it appeared to be "the end of the world."

The term Dust Bowl has endured the test of time and is still the most descriptive term in Great Plains history. Robert Geiger, an Associated Press reporter from Denver, coined the term after experiencing the dust storm on April 14, 1935.
Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" June 8, 2009 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.


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