- SH: We are going to talk about the Dust Bowl. Can you remember how
it affected Prescott?
- JT: It covered us up with dust. (Laughs) People watering gardens strained
the city's watering system. If you can, imagine a time when you get up
in the morning and there is an inch of dust on your front porch and that's
the way it was. It didn't rain for two years. This affected people directly.
I've been talking about the gardens and the food here in the towns. We
did better that the rural folks because we had limited city water. By 1929
the streets on the east side of town had been paved, but the streets on
the southwest side had not been paved. Dust was that deep (gestures with
hand) on the streets. It was a miserable time. It stayed hot and the weather
did not get back to normal until I finished high school in 1938. It was
dry and hot. In 1936 it got up to 112 degrees, and that is still the record.
- SH: You didn't have any air conditioning either.
- JT: No, we didn't. Our house had one little small electric fan and
my mother used that in the kitchen.
- SH: Do you have any stories about how it affected agriculture? Was
it just the lack of water, or was it anything else?
- JT: There was no cotton production. What there was didn't bring any
money. I remember one of the old hillbilly songs. It was hillbilly then
not country music. The song went "Eleven cent cotton/ And forty cent
meat/ How in the world/ Can a poor man eat." (Laughs) There was one
good thing that came from it. The thoughtful farmers knew they had to do
something. So the Department of Agriculture started the Extension Service.
It got under way in the early 1930's. They did a great service in teaching
contour plowing and how to get the most production. That was one of the
good things that came about. There was virtually no agricultural production.
In the early part of the Dust Bowl, of course, it was dry all the way to
the Canadian border. The dairy herds and cattle in Kansas and Nebraska
were all dying. They decided to ship what was left of the cattle down South
and maybe there would be more grass or hay. By the time they got them down
here there wasn't. Well, there were about six train loads of those cattle
here. They were literally skeletons. They drove them out to two old gravel
pits north of town and shot them. But I know that there were some people
who got some cows to butcher them and ate them. (laughs) But they were
supposed to be slaughtered and they were. Someday when some archeologist
digs up those pits with cow bones in them, he is going to wonder what in
the world happened. (Laughs) But there were hundreds of cattle slaughtered
and covered up in those old gravel pits.
- SH: They didn't use the meat to give to people?
- JT: No, they were afraid they were diseased and they wouldn't okay
giving them to people. I don't know what the real problems were. That was
a difficult time and didn't get better until World War II started. It was
getting ready to start but we didn't know it then. What rejuvenated this
country economically was what they called the Louisiana Maneuvers. In late
1941, starting in August, there were about 200,000 soldiers moving through
here. Well, that brings a lot of money into a place. I've been told
by the bankers and people who knew, that there were six businesses that
would have closed their doors by Christmas if the influx of the maneuvers
hadn't taken place. Then they built the Red River Army Depot over in Texarkana.
That gave work to a lot of people. It was later that they started the Naval
in Camden. That helped some people here. There was a great many people
who took off for California and Houston, Texas. Our next door neighbor
was a building contractor and he went broke. He bought an old rickety school
bus and he left town in the dead of the night so his creditors wouldn't
know what he was doing. (Laughs) He took off to Houston, Texas, and got
there just in time to get in the boom down there and became a millionaire
contractor. He came back and paid off every nickel of his debts plus interest.
There just wasn't much funny going on at that time. Those were serious
times. I told you a couple of things about the boy jumping out of the school
window and that is about all I can recall as being real funny.