Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Merle Haggard was a legend in his own time, grew up in a boxcar converted to a home, like many kids during the great depression, and now he's went on ahead

Boxcar houses were not uncommon during the Depression, as chronicled by Works Project Administration photographers like Arthur Rothstein. The story of how the Haggards acquired theirs offers a glimpse of the era’s widespread prejudice toward Okies, though the singer’s own pride in his origins would later inspire his 1969 hit, “Okie From Muskogee.”

The family learned of the boxcar from a fellow church member, who asked James Haggard if he thought he could turn a surplus refrigerated train car she owned into a home, Mrs. Rea recalled. “She asked my daddy where he was from, and when he said ‘Oklahoma,’ she said, ‘I hear Oklahomans don’t work.’ Well, his blue eyes met her blue eyes, and he said, ‘I’ve never heard of one who didn’t.’

Though the house was intended to be temporary, the remodeling was a family effort: James Haggard added a pop-out dining area, a wash house and a hand-poured concrete bathtub and front steps; his wife, Flossie, planted fruit trees, climbing roses and a backyard grape arbor, drying raisins for pies on the roof.

The campaign to “Save Hag’s Boxcar” restoring it to its prim 1940s glory, meant relocating it to the Kern County Museum

The home was saved thanks to a campaign, Help Save Hag’s Boxcar. It will be restored to its original condition and put on display at the Kern County Museum.

The boxcar has been successfully moved to its new location at the Kern County Museum. Restoring the boxcar home to its former glory will take place over the next few months. Updates will be posted at

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