1929 – Before the Fall

1920's Slaton

In 1924 several people made their way to the Slaton City Hall and, over radio, listened in as their young hometown girls sang. For the first time, calming voices of Slatonites traveled far beyond the prairie lands.

“An outstanding event in my school life was in 1924,” Julia Alice Florence Lane wrote in Slaton Stories. “Several of us girls played in the band and sang at the Fort Worth Stock Show.” From the stock show, a live broadcast feed of the event was played over the radio. “The people of Slaton met at the City Hall to hear us over loud speakers,” she wrote.

Two years later, once the excitement of the Fort Worth Stock Show had subsided, in 1926 the town met again for the wedding of Muriel Tudor.

“I was born on August 6, 1911,” Tudor wrote in Slaton Stories. “I had the honor to be the first girl to be born in Slaton.” Tudor came from a long lineage of settlers including her father, R.H. Tudor, who built some of the first houses in Slaton. She married Albert O. Smith who was the manager of the Slaton Theater at the time.

That same year, Opal Mosley Walston was a young girl who had begun her education at East Ward School. She was a young girl who often walked past Albert O. Smith and Muriel Tudor as she enjoyed spending the weekends at the movie theater during her childhood.

“On Friday nights, each family that could spare twenty-five cents was at the movies,” Walston wrote in Slaton Stories. “A whole family could attend for a quarter and usually a double feature and a comedy were shown.”

Walston wrote that another event considered, “great family entertainment,” was when citizens would go to the red depot and watch trains go through. She wrote that in later years special trains were run to and from Lamesa for the annual rival football game. “Almost the entire population of Slaton would attend,” she wrote. “One time among the many games that Slaton High School won, the Lamesa fans were so angry they made us walk from the stadium to the depot in the snow.”

The final years of the twenties, as electricity became common, streets were paved, more houses were built and even more cars were traveling the roads (horses and buggies, like outhouses, were becoming a rare sight in the late twenties), the people read in The Slatonite that the economic forecast was becoming bleak as people borrowed from banks at a furious rate with little to no money to pay them back.

Then came – 1929.

In October of 1929, the stock market crashed and the grand decadence and luxurious lifestyles of the 1920’s fell with it. The technological advancements that filled their homes, the candy shops that lined the square, and the accomplishments of the people of Slaton quickly lost their luster as the widespread fear of the troubled times ahead hung heavy on the citizens.

The Brewer house, home of J.H. Brewer the president of the First State Bank, which was once filled with grand parties and social activities, continued to be for the majority of 1929 and early 30’s. However, they too weren’t completely spared from the economic catastrophe.

“J.H. was president of the First State Bank,” Katrina Brewer McDavid wrote in Slaton Stories. “It was a position he held until the disastrous depression. The bank survived the first, ‘run,’ but its backers were unable to convert holdings to pay off customers the second time and the doors closed in 1932.”

In a different part of town, in a different household, young Opal Mosley Walston and her family dealt with the hardships in a different manner. “During the depression years, my dad helped the farmers by letting them have groceries all year until their crops were gathered,” Walston wrote. “In the fall our back yard was filled with bales of cotton that were used to pay those bills. Many of the town women paid with handmade quilts.”

As the decade of what was once considered decadent quickly transformed into the most unforgiving times in history, on the southwest part of town a grand building was being assembled. It was the most ambitious architectural structure assembled in Slaton. Deep into the autumn season, when the lush prairie had turned brown and the trees were bare and showed no sign of life, on a frigid afternoon the citizens of Slaton witnessed the opening of The Mercy Hospital.

“New $125,000 Building Virtually Complete; One of the Finest Institutions in the Southwest,” was the headline of The Slatonite on Friday, November 22, 1929.

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About slatontx

The ramblings of one of the few remaining small town newspaper reporters left in the world!
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