Depression Era: Living Through the Dirty Thirties

Nebraska woman remembers high school and home life during the infamous "dirty thirties"

| Good Old Days

The Nebraska Dust Bowl and "Dirty Thirties" depression era remains a vivid, painful memory to me. It continued all during my high school days. I came from a family trying desperately to save their farm. Every penny had to be clutched and saved. The town people were not affected as severely as the farmers as the continued drought compounded their miseries in a double way.

But I think the most painful memory was the day my Father lost one of his four remaining heifers. She had had her first calf and lost it, and died, too. We had endured dust storms for several days. Dad wore a wet cloth around his face. The choking stuff drifted into the house everywhere - on the window sills, into Mom's white curtains, across the floor.

Outside it drifted over fence lines and machinery and it banged loose the barn doors. It literally blew the precious seeds out of the garden dirt, and that year a late frost had killed the buds on the fruit trees. So there would be no garden stuff or fruit to can and there'd be no potatoes to dig in the fall. And then the heifer died! Dad, my big, strong, gentle father, sat down on the front step and cried. Mom tried to comfort him but I ran and hid. I loved him so much! I have always wished that I would not have run away but stayed to help. We had all hit bottom that day.

And then things gradually began to get better. Dad managed to save the farm, and even helped his brother save his, too. The dust storms stopped, the rains came and President Roosevelt helped. We all survived!

Dorothy McClean Boettner 
Fremont, Nebraska

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community. 

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