By Ronald Ahrens
In 1945, far in the northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle hard against the Oklahoma Panhandle, Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, built a 216,000-bushel grain elevator in the town of Booker. Records show it was the company’s 15th reinforced-concrete elevator. The construction occurred in the same year as Tillotson’s 212,000-bushel job just 23 miles over the road to Follett.
With about 1,300 people today, Booker sits on the Ochiltree and Lipscomb county line. It is about the same distance, roughly 400 miles, from here to Denver or Dallas.
The elevator complex was on the Santa Fe Railroad’s tracks, but these were taken out years ago. Originally they were the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railroad’s tracks. There is a curious history to this, as we find in the Wikipedia entry:
“Booker was founded seven miles north of where it currently sits as La Kemp, Oklahoma, in 1909. However, 10 years later when the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway was built from Shattuck, Oklahoma, to Spearman, Texas, the entire town moved seven miles across the state line to be near the railroad. The town was platted shortly before the move in 1917 by Thomas C. Spearman who had Spearman, Texas named after him. La Kemp was renamed Booker in honor of one of the engineers for the railroad.”
On this early morning of April 18, I approached from the west on Route 15, looking into the twilight on the horizon.
I didn’t know yet that I was looking at an amalgam of elevators and storage silos. The tall headhouse was that of a second elevator on the site, one by another builder.
Tillotson’s Booker elevator adhered to a revised plan from Medford, Okla., which was a 1941 job. (Tillotson built no elevators in 1942 or 1943.)
Medford had tanks, or silos, of 15.5-feet in diameter and a center driveway.
In 1945, Tillotson hadn’t yet developed its curved headhouse, so this one in Booker seemed a little impertinent and rigid.
I had the place to myself while taking pictures. Mostly, in this light, I could only shoot profiles. So I went down to the sports field at the southwest corner of town for the long view.
Then, desperately hungry, I found my way to La Choza (The Hut) for a hearty breakfast including extra chorizo, all for $9.69.
What happened when I returned to the elevator after breakfast is the subject of tomorrow’s post.