Memories of the early 1930s

The family dog led her home during a windstorm

■ By Evelyn Meyer / Contributed

During the 1930s, the Great Depression served to be a 10-year economic nightmare lasting from 1929 to 1939. The numerous dust-bowls were a hardship for many people during that era.
Our home near Charter Oak, Iowa, was out in the country two miles from school. In spite of the possible sudden dust storms night and day, every child six years and older was required to attend school. We had dirt roads and it became necessary for me and my two brothers to walk the two-mile trek twice a day.
My first year of education was in a one-room country school. The teacher’s desk was located in front of the class and a heating stove stood in the far corner. One teacher taught all classes. We also had an outdoor toilet that was called “the two-holer.” The toilet paper in our two-holer was pages from the Sears catalog.
The following year mom and dad bought a larger farm. The country school that we were designated to attend was actually a new school just built that provided us with indoor toilets. Whoopee! During those early years of the 1930s, country schools had only one teacher for grades 1-8. A bust-sized picture of George Washington hung on the wall, and both upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet bordered the top of the blackboards in every county and parochial school.
One day before noon a sudden dust storm arrived. Our teacher quickly dismissed school and urged everyone to hurry home. My older brother, Vernon, age 12, watched over me and our sister, Aldene. I was 10 years old and she was 8. We had more than a mile and a half to walk before reaching home. We crossed the busy highway and railroad tracks safely. We still had a mile to walk through our neighbor’s land, and then finally our land. As time passed, the storm became much more severe, with dust swirling viciously around us.

Dust and grit lodged in our eyes and mouth. Occasionally we were blown further back than we were advancing. Once, we momentarily lost our little sister in the swirling dust. Panic set in. We yelled and yelled for her. Finally, we found her closer to us than we thought. From then on, we tried holding hands, but the fierce winds still pulled us apart. We stopped frequently, trying to clear the grit from our eyes and mouths.
Finally we arrived at our fence line. Crossing the barbed wire fence was not easy. Vernon came to our rescue and bent the fencing down. Then he held the top barbed-wire up, helping both my sister and me climb through the small opening.
It was good to be walking on our own land, but once again, after losing sight of the fence we just crossed, we lost track of the direction we were going.
Suddenly, our dog Spot appeared. We were so happy to see him. We knew he would give us hope and direction. We followed Spot…losing him now and then. Finally a glimmer of light came into view, but the wind pulled us backward until we could no longer see the light. We tried harder to buck the wind. Then the light came into view again.
Mom and Dad had been standing at the window holding a lantern for hours, watching for us. Spot had apparently been traveling back and forth, from us to the house. They had lit all of the kerosene lamps and put them close to the window, hoping it would help us to find our house.
It was 3 p.m. when we arrived – a three-hour trek that I will never forget during those Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. All thanks to our dog, Spot.
Evelyn Meyer is a 94-year-old Hemet resident.

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