Personal interviews with Texas Panhandle men and women born in the
early years of the twentieth century rewarded me with hundreds of
stories illustrating their everyday life. I like to share those stories
just as they were told to me.
Ola Covey has vivid memories of the Dirty Thirties in the Texas
Panhandle. She was working in the Gray County Clerk’s office in Pampa.
She and a friend went for Sunday afternoon visit in April 1935. It
was a little more exciting than they planned. Ola tells about that
was in the dirt storm to end all dirt storms, I guess.
It was one April. It was a nice day and a friend, Lucille Douglas,
she and I roomed together, we had gone over to Panhandle.
Her brother, Curtis Douglas, a lawyer was over there; he and his wife
were living over there with his wife’s mother and father, the Cleeks.
They had a real nice farm house. We went over there to visit the Cleeks
and as we came out of the house to leave, I never noticed anything
wrong, but when we got down to the highway, well Curtis, who was ahead
of us, stopped and came back there to us and he said, “It looks like
a dust storm coming. You just come on down to the Panhandle Inn until
we see what’s going to happen.”
the time we got there, people were coming in off the highway and gathering
there at the Panhandle Inn. That thing rolled in and it wasn’t like
a dust cloud coming from out of the sky. It was like something creeping
along on the ground, just turning over and over and over. We watched
it until it hit the school building there and it just simply rolled
over it and just covered it. One minute you could see the school building
and the next minute you couldn’t even tell the school building was
there. It just simply covered the thing over. It was just an amazing
thing to watch.
People kept coming in off the highway and they would have their handkerchiefs
over their faces. A lot of people were scared. Curtis said they thought
there might be a tornado behind it. There wasn’t though. It was just
a black duster. When it rolled in, it got so dark they turned the
lights on in there. Lucille and I drove on home after it had blown
over, but it was still dusty. There were a whole lot of stories told
about that storm, about how people got scared and got religeous and
everything else. People really got scared. It was a scary thing. That
was a bad one.
There were a lot of sandstorms in those days. You would just wake
up and it would be hazy and it would stay that way all day. When it
was a red one, they said it came from Colorado. I don’t know that,
but that’s what they said. The land was just blowing away. I’ll tell
you right now, when Roosevelt came in here and started that soil conservation,
it was a God’s blessing to this country. It really was. We’ve never
had those bad dust storms since then – not like that.
© Louise George
History by George - September
Author: Ola Covey is featured in Louise George’s
book, Some of My Heroes Are Ladies, Women, Ages 85 to 101, Tell About
Life in the Texas Panhandle. Louise can be reached at (806)935-5286
by mail at Box 252, Dumas, TX 79029 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories,
landmarks and vintage/historic photos, please contact