• Special to the Daily Leader
On Sunday afternoon, April 14, 1935, a black blizzard that blotted out the sun hit the Great Plains with the biggest impact being felt in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Find out what that was like by attending the Dust Bowl Symposium planned for Guymon, Ok Friday and Saturday, April 9-10.
When that storm hit, people scrambled indoors or into their storm cellars. Many thought it was the end of the world. Cars were stranded on the roads due to poor visibility or dust smothering the engines. People caught outside became disoriented and day turned to night; the event has become known as Black Sunday.
The day after Black Sunday, an Associated Press reporter used the term “Dust Bowl” for the first time. “Three little words achingly familiar on the Western farmer’s tongue, rule life in the dust bowl of the continent – if it rains.” The term stuck and was used by radio reporters and writers, in private letters and public speeches.
Seventy-five years later, the memories of the Dust Bowl still define the Panhandle area, and to commemorate the event, planners are bringing to Guymon “Drought, Displacement and Determination: A Dust Bowl Symposium.” The two-day event will allow survivors to recall what it was like and others to hear speakers who talk about the major impact the Dust Bowl had on area residents. Generous funding for the event has been provided by the Oklahoma Humanities Council.
The movie “The Grapes of Wrath” and the documentary “The Plow that Broke the Plains” will be presented at the Northridge 8 Cinema in Guymon at 3 p.m. for the Depression-era price of 35-cents in order for everyone to see the portrayal of “Okies” by Hollywood and learn how plowing up the Great Plains led to an ecological disaster.
Saturday events will take place at Draper Farms west of Guymon. Signs along U.S. Highway 54 will direct attendees to the site. Events will take place all day, and there is no admission charge. Attendees may come for all or part of the events. At 8:30 a.m., everyone is invited to gather and enjoy Dust Bowl images and memories. Major funding for this event is provided by the Oklahoma Humanities Council.
There will be an open microphone during periods throughout the day facilitated by Dr. Sara Jane Richter, head of the humanities department at OPSU. Richter will give her well-researched talk, “Down and Dirty, But Not Out: Women of the High Plains During the Dust Bowl” at 11 a.m. This talk has been well-received at venues such as the Kansas Library Convention and involved hundreds of interviews with women who survived the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.
Richter is also the author of a readers’ theater production to be presented at 3:45 p.m., “If Only It’d Rain.” The cast will include Dr. Wayne Stewart of Goodwell, Dr. Brad Duren of Guymon, Kevin and Debbie Richter of Hennessey and the author herself. Dr. Matthew Saunders of OPSU has composed a musical score that will accompany the production.
The Saturday events will kick off at 9 a.m. when former Guymon mayor Jess Nelson will give the welcome and introduce Dr. Paul Bonnifield, author of “The Dust Bowl: Men, Dirt and Depression.” Bonnifeld will speak on the topic “The Days of the Dust Bowl” at 9:10 a.m.
Food will be available for purchase at noon catered by a local church followed by activities for school-age children arranged by the Texas County 4-Hers and Girl Scouts.
Other speakers for the day include Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Steve Drillette of the National Weather Service, Rod Wanger, Oklahoma CRP Program Director, Dr. Pauline Hodges and Mark Harrison, Oklahoma Conservation Commission. A free soup line supper will be held at 5:30 p.m. followed by a talk by Dr. Guy Logsdon on “Music in Oklahoma in the 1930s.” Logsdon will also lead a gospel sing-along. The evening will end with dancing at 8 p.m.
For a complete schedule of events with times, see the event Web site at thegritinyourteeth.com. Other generous sponsors who are helping with the event include the Guymon Public Library, Guymon Friends of the Library, Guymon Convention and Tourism, Tri-County Electric, City National Bank of Guymon, Jimmie and Carrie Lou Draper, PTCI, Bank of the Panhandle, Mid-First Bank, The Willows (David Kidwell) and Guymon Enrichment Foundation.