Thursday, March 3, 2016

1929: Quay, oil field fire

On May 15, 1929 half of Quay, Oklahoma was destroyed when a fire swept in from the oil fields.

My mother,  Mary Potter's, story was that the family had piled into the Model T touring car and driven south to Yale, Oklahoma to celebrate her high school graduation.  When they got back from Yale, part of Quay was in flames.  This was worth a few photos the next day:

Quay after fire, May 1929
This Model T may have been in for repairs when it burned;
else a powerful explosion blew the engine several yards.

Quay after fire, May 1929
Only part of the town burned this time; surviving buildings are
off to the left.  A second fire swept through later and took the rest.

Quay after fire, May 1929
Lots of old cars at the ruins.
Quay after fire, May 1929

Quay after fire, May 1929

The economy would go up in flames a few months later.

One of my mother's chores was to listen to the radio in the afternoon when the daily stock market summaries were read.  She would write down a few prices as they went by, since George Potter had invested in "Standard Oil" (there were a half-dozen trust-busted bits of Standard Oil in the 1920's; I don't know which George had purchased).  The October 24, 1929 crash went by for mom in "real" if greatly delayed time; the ticker fell hours behind.  George was certain she had gotten the numbers wrong when he got home from work and looked through them.

If the Potters had been able to hold on to the "Standard Oil" stock, they would have done alright in the longer run, or so Mary thought.  The stock had to go to meet day-to-day expenses.


  1. RE radio listening: On a mid-Sixties Cabool visit we found that Grandma had bought at a garage sale an Edison phonograph (B19 "Chalet" tabletop model, manufactured between 1919-1922) and about fifty records, giving a grand total of $6.00 for the works. When I asked Father if this was like anything from his childhood his response was "Gosh, no, we never had anything THIS nice." Apparently in Quay their house had a speaker hooked up to the radio set in the oil field office, and the family had the option of listening or not by turning the speaker up or down--but they were always at the mercy of whatever station the office had tuned in... (Doug)

    1. That's a great addition to the story. The oilfield houses do look like "company town" housing for skilled workers; I've stayed in similar places in paper mill towns abroad...right down to the speaker in the wall for "entertainment". At least the oil town provided for turning the speaker off.