We had the grand opportunity to visit with Great Grandma Martha (our mama's grandma) last month. We enjoyed her company more than anything, but also loved hearing tales of her life growing up on a farm in Lubbock, Texas in the 30's. Here are some interesting things we learned:
She was born in Texas in 1923. She had eight siblings, all were born (at home:) in Texas from 1917 to 1934. As a child no older than Micayla, she picked cotton for hours on some days. She rode a mule to school and she lived in a "Dust Bowl" state during the Great Depression. We had lots of questions for her. Here are some of the answers to our many questions...
1. Tell more about your ride to school on a mule. Was it a 3 1/2 mile journey? Did you like school? What did you learn there? What did you learn at home? Did you learn more at school or more at home? What did you prefer - being at school, or being at home - why?
I started school at 7 years old and lived 4 miles from school. I rode behind my brother, Johnny, on a horse for the first year. After one year, we moved to a homestead behind my grandfather’s house and that is when I started riding an old mule to school with Fern, Lillie and myself. This is where the story I told you about how the train conductor would blow the whistle for approximately ½ mile to try to get the mule to throw us off into the ditch. (Conductor was never successful) Later Winifred joined us on the mule ride to school. We started school late in the Fall (past the start date of school) because we worked in the fields, pulling corn from the stock or maze, a grain that you feed cattle, (but not from a corn stock) depending on what was ready to be harvested.
I loved school but was always behind due to the above. I learned the basics at school, reading, writing and arithmetic. I did not learn much at home as being the fourth child they did not know I was even there. I learned more at school. I preferred being at school because I wanted to learn more. At home I felt lost.
2. What was it like growing up in the 1930's? What was a typical day like for you when you were a child? Was it scary during the "dust bowl"? Was there dust in the air on most days? Did you ever wear a mask to help keep the dirt out of your lungs? Did you experience what is known as "Black Sunday"? Did you know of anyone who died because of the all the dust?
Growing up in the 1930’s was a very difficult time in my life. I did realize that surviving was difficult because we did not have enough food.
A typical day was very different from your typical day during school time. If I was going to go to school, the night before I had to think about what to wear, which I only had one or two dresses to choose from, if it needed washing I had to wash it in a wash tub the night before school.
If it was summer, we would play with paper dolls, cutting them out of the catalog. In the evening we may play “kick the can”.
Dust bowl days: We would sit in the shade of the house and look at the horizon and see a black line along the horizon and would which it get bigger and bigger and closer and closer until it covered us. It would have dust that filtered out of the air and covered everything. My mother would always put the dishes upside down so we would not have the wash them before using them for food. If we had water, we would wet a cloth and tie it around our face when going to school. One day in particular I remember the dust came over us and the sky turned yellow, and stayed that way for 3 days and it was really scary for me. The sun was like a big yellow ball. I believe this was Black Sunday. Many people passed away but I did not know anyone personally
3. With the crops failing, how did your family survive? Did your family receive any relief money or food from the government? What did you eat? Did you eat cornbread and milk?
When crops failed no one had any money. For one to two years, we had no relief and I do not know how we survived because the government had killed off the cattle we had because we had no feed to feed them and they were starving along with us.
My dad sold off the farm equipment and anything he could and that is what we used to survive on at that time in the early 30’s
We had lots of beans along cornbread and milk until we had to sell the cows. (the government bought from us but killed them because they were starving.)
4. Why did your family choose to stay in Texas for all those years of the "dust bowl"? Do you think it was the right decision to stay?
Everyone was going to other states, but we had no car or way to leave, so we stayed. It was the only decision.
5. Did you have neighbors and friends who lived near you? Were there trees where you lived? Did you have time for leisure activities? If so, what did you like to do?
We had neighbors that visited once or twice a year. Some farms that we rented had some trees and usually a Cottonwood Tree. Leisure time was getting ready for school, washing dresses or stockings; during the summer we would play under a tree with kittens in the barn. Before we lost everything we would play with the calves and we always named them like Walley which was my calf.
In my leisure time, I like to help my mother when she would let me. If you wouldn’t let me, it was because of too many distractions from others. If she was baking a cake, I might get to do a bit of stirring and that is a fond memory.
If you'd like to learn more about Dust Bowl survivors, check out the "American Experience" documentary Surviving the Dust Bowl (be aware of the rabbit part though - not very kid friendly).
Here is Nate playing a piece on his Sax for Great Grandma (Thanks for coming - it was a pleasure having you visit! And thanks to Great Aunt Bobbie for helping us with the interview - it was great seeing you too:)