Those Were The Days: Texas Dirt Storm


The day we would like to forget! As we all live out our lives, there are certain things we wish had never happened to us. So now and then, I get these “flashbacks,” and sometimes they’re good, and sometimes they’re bad, and I shake my head and try to push it back into my subconscious mind and try to forget it!

There came a day in 1955, my senior year at Pampa High School, I will never forget… and neither will you, if you are from that era...

It was the day of the doggonest DIRTSTORM since the one in 1937 that all the local elders talk about. My mom spoke about soaking the bed sheets in the kitchen sink and then hanging them over the curtain rods in the “shotgun” house at the end of Francis Street! Insulation hadn’t been invented for homes!

This storm in 1955 was a reddish-brown dirt that struck our town from the south. It was around 3 P.M. and a nice sunny day. However, you could see this huge rolling cloud moving very fast, covering the entire town in less than a minute. If you were outside, the tiny rocks stung your bare skin and “hurt like the devil!”

It was like darkness arrived early that evening, and the storm intensified throughout the night and the rest of the following day. Our school rooms and desks stayed so dirty that the teachers lectured while we sat there, not using our books or desks. They turned school out at 2 P.M., but Coach McNeely said practice was still a must due to a big basketball game on Friday night.

We suited up and grabbed a rope for five minutes of “jump rope.” Trying to do this was when we realized there was no traction; you just slid around. It was like trying to walk on those little round things called BBs or buckshot.

Now, Coach loved his beautiful hardwood floor. He had better not catch you in street shoes while walking on his gym floor! You can just imagine what this dirt with tiny gravel was doing to our beautiful floor. He sent us up to the balcony to do our exercises for an hour to stay in condition. We were then sent home. McNeely gave each of us a hand towel to keep over our nose and mouth to help filter breathing the dirty air.

It’s only 50 feet from the gym to the back of our school, but you could barely see it. And locating your auto in the parking lot was a task because they were all reddish brown with three inches of earth covering them! The windshield wipers were useless due to the weight of the dirt, so you had to go back outside and use the hand towel to wipe it off on every window so you could see where you were going. When you entered your auto the second time and looked in the mirror, your clothes and your hair were reddish brown. It was terrible!

I swore then that I would live where there was grass, lots of flowers, and NO WIND!

Thursday morning, we had a beautiful, sunny day. It was time for cleanup. There were buckets everywhere for collecting the dirt. The gym teachers had their classes on mops and brooms to help the janitors clean up the entire high school. The inside of the facility had the students involved in making the classrooms “spick and span.” Between the gym classes and our basketball and football players, we had the gym ready for the Friday night game.

I still get the he-bee-gee-bees thinking about that awful, horrible, nasty, terrible, never-forgettable day, and I bet you won’t either if you are an old timer from back then!

Ugg... those were the days.


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