The Panhandle Trip — Part Three

Howard continues his narrative about the Panhandle trip in his letter to HPL as the family heads south from Amarillo on Highway 87:

At Canyon, eighteen miles south of Amarillo, we turned eastward and drove several miles to the Palo Duro Canyon, the eastern-most of the great gorges of the west. A narrow road, a mile long, meandered down into the canyon, which is a thousand feet deep and perhaps eighty miles long, and we drove along the canyon floor for several miles, seeing some of the most vivid and rugged scenery I have ever seen anywhere, even in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico

Howard proceeds to tell the story of a famous Indian battle on the floor of the Palo Duro canyon. Last December I posted “The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon — The End of the Indian Wars in Texas” about that battle here on the blog.

After their visit to Palo Duro Canyon, the family got back on track as Howard recounts in his letter to HPL:

Returning to Canyon City, the home of the West Texas State Teachers Normal, we wanted to visit the museum,which I understand is the most complete thing of its kind in the State; but it is open only on certain days in the summer, and that wasn’t one of the days.

The museum Howard refers to is the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, which opened in 1933. West Texas State Teachers Normal was part of the first university system in Texas, The Texas State University System. The term “normal school” originated in the early 16th century from the French ecole normale. The French concept of an “ecole normale” was to provide a model school with model classrooms to teach model teaching practices to its student teachers.

It is too bad the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum was closed that hot July day. I have no doubt Howard would have enjoyed it immensely.  Exhibits in 1935 featured everything Texas, from dinosaurs to the oil boom and beyond. When it first opened, it was 12,500 square feet, but has grown during the ensuing years to 285,000 square feet today,  making it the largest State supported museum in Texas.  The brainchild of this massive undertaking was an educator named Hattie Anderson who taught history at West Texas State Normal College in the early 1920s. These days it is considered by many as the Smithsonian of Texas.

Leaving Canyon City (today known as simply “Canyon”), the Howards began their journey back to Cross Plains, ending their brief stay in the Panhandle with some new memories of the great state of Texas. But there were still many more miles to travel before the Howard family reached their home.

Read Part One, Part Two, Part Four, Part Five