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Share the story of America's families confronted
by the stock market crash of 1929 and the Dust
Bowl. Struggling to keep his family together, one
young man experiences the loss of his home, the
Separation of his family, and economic prejudice.
Travel hundreds of miles from Oklahoma to the
Grand Coulee Dam; discover an American tragedy
and the courage to survive.
4th Grade through
Theatre / Drama
Media / Television
Mark Dobson is the eldest of two
children living on the family farm in the
Oklahoma panhandle. In 1929, when
Mark is 14, the life he and his family
have experienced comes to a sudden
end. On October 29, 1929 the Stock
Market crashes. Many banks fail,
closing their doors and leaving
customers like the Dobsons penniless.
Two years later, the Midwestern states
fall into a severe and unrelenting
drought. Mark and his family watch
their crops shrivel in the sun as the soil
is turned to dust.
Mark join his father (a World War One
veteran) to petition President Hoover
for early payment of their veteran's
bonus money. Things become violent
when General MacArthur disperses the
Bonus Army with tear gas and guns,
killing and injuring some protesters.
Mark and his father return to
Oklahoma, now beaten and dispirited.
1932 President Roosevelt is elected the
family is evicted from the family home,
they must now separate in order to
survive. Mark's father leaves to find
work; his mother and sister are taken
in by a relative, and Mark follows in his
father's footsteps as he heads out
alone to California and the promise of
Mark heads for California on the
now-famous Route 66. He is befriended
by a hobo named Pete, who teaches
him how to hop trains.
On his first trip riding the rails, Mark
meets a young African American hobo
named Fred Fred plays the guitar and
teaches Mark the harmonica. One night
when they become the victims of a
racial attack. Mark and Fred try to run
to safety by hopping on a speeding
train, but Fred miscalculates and is
thrown off the car to his death.
In California, economic prejudice is
everywhere, as Californians protest
"Okies, go home". Working conditions are
brutal and pay is horribly low. Even the
union organizers can't help; demands for
better conditions are met with violence.
Mark leaves California for Washington
In Seattle he learns about the Civilian
Conservation Corps. Later his days are
filled with difficult and exciting work at
the Grand Coulee Dam.
Mark's fortunes continue to rise when he
learns that his father is also working on
the dam! Mark makes plans to send for
his mother and Sister, and also applies to
music school in Seattle.
These happy times end suddenly when an
accident at the dam kills Marks' father.
Mark is left with a badly injured hand. In
time Mark learns to play again,
overcoming the pain and fear. His
audition for music school is a success and
he enters school on a scholarship. As his
musical career continues to grow, Mark is
thankful that his family overcame great
misfortune and remembers those who
had to rebuild the dreams "that got
blown away in the dust of the Great
Written by Rachel Atkins