Hard Times Come To Hartshorne, Again

A Town Proud Of Its Heritage

by Jacque Nicholson (1955-2009)


 (circa 2003, NOTE: Miss Nicholson was one of the founders of Hard Times Festival)

Most people want to forget hard times, but one Oklahoma town chooses to remember them.
Hartshorne, a small town located 15 miles southeast of McAlester celebrates the spirit of those who survived the lean years of the Great Depression. The resilient men, women and children who "were poor, but didn't know it" and who had to "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" are proudly remembered during Hard Times Festival.
Hard Times Festival is a time the former coalmining town pays tribute to the great American spirit of strength, faith and survival.  Hartshorne recalls the era when folks didn't have much, but shared what they did have. When people worked hard, helped their neighbors, had faith in God and country, and maintained a sense of humor and love of a good time. They were strong people who knew no matter how tough times became, they would survive because they were tougher...they were Americans.
Hartshorne is proud of its coalmining history and the many immigrants who came to call it home. According to a 1980 article in the Hartshorne Sun 24 different and distinct dialects were spoken in the mining town during the 1920s and early 1930s. Hard Times Festival extends a special invitation to all coalminers.
Hard Times Festival activities run the gamut from outhouse relay races to a period-style fashion show, and cheap eats are a big part of the day. Gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde prowl, hoboes panhandle and people in period dress rub shoulders with itinerant preachers, street performers like the incomparable Hotsy Totsy Girls, unemployed men, newsboys, farmers, coalminers and 5-cent shoeshine boys along Pennsylvania Avenue, Hartshorne's main street, which owes it's accommodating width to the days when a streetcar rumbled back and forth from nearby McAlester.
Arts and crafts, a quilt show, mule-drawn wagon rides, a rock contest, 1930s hat display, apron exhibit, bonnet display, canned goods display, square dancers, antique tractors, vintage cars, old fashioned games and high spirited contests will lend to Depression era feel.
Country, blue grass, gospel, and blues music will be performed by local artists and guest performers throughout the day. Hartshorne High School Marching Band, clad in overalls, will keep toes tapping.
Hartshorne is a little town with a big heart and never is that more obvious than in October when the community comes together to pull off a big party called Hard Times Festival.
For more information contact Jerry, 1011 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hartshorne, OK. 74547 or call 918-297-3651



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