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The C.A. LeFeure/Sally Trusler Collection - Dust Storm and Sally’s Birthday Party

Sally L. Trusler

Silent | 1950s

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  •  A dust storm blows tumbleweeds down the streets of San Angelo. West Texas experienced the worst effects of the 1950s drought, with San Angelo commonly considered the epicenter of the crisis.  
  •  Sally’s birthday party 
  •  Trimming the Christmas tree 
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  • About the video
  • 1950s Drought 1950s Drought
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This 1950s home movie captures a dust storm in San Angelo. The LeFeure home faced the campus of San Angelo College (now known as Angelo State University). According to donor Sally Trusler, dust storms and tumbleweeds were a common occurrence there during the disastrous 1950s Texas drought. Later, a young Sally celebrates her birthday with friends at a backyard party. Also included is footage of the LeFeure children decorating the Christmas tree.
Between 1950 and 1957, below-normal rainfall combined with higher-than-average temperatures to create the most catastrophic drought in Texas to date. The drought began in the late 1940s, as the state saw a gradual decrease in rainfall. By 1953, however, that decrease had turned into a critical water shortage, with over half of the state reporting more than 30 inches below normal rainfall. The Trans-Pecos region, for example, received only eight inches of rain the entire year. The escalating drought had a disastrous effect on Texas farms and ranches, with economic losses exceeding those of the Dust Bowl years. It also had a lasting effect on the environment. Overgrazing made the land more susceptible to invasive plants while poor soil-conservation practices gave way to frequent dust storms. Rain finally returned in 1957, with intermittent January showers turning into month-long downpours by spring. Every major river in Texas flooded, adding to the damages caused by the drought itself. To hopefully prevent such a crisis from reoccurring, the state established drought contingency and water conservation plans, creating the Texas Water Development Board in 1957 and more than doubling the amount of reservoirs between 1950 and 1970.