Merle Haggard’s Childhood Boxcar Home Relocated to Museum
Merle Haggard's childhood home is now in a new location. The train boxcar where Haggard was born and raised, which his father purchased in 1935 for $500, was permanently moved from its previous location at 1303 Yosemite Dr. in Oildale, Calif., to the Kern County Museum in nearby Bakersfield.
Both Haggard and his 93-year-old sister, Lillian Haggard Rea, along with Haggard's wife and children, attended the relocation ceremony on July 29.
“The walls were thick: cool in the summer and warm in winter,” Rea recalls to the New York Times of the boxcar.
The family found much happiness in their tiny home in Haggard's early years, with his mother, Flossie Mae Harp, once cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 22 people in the boxcar. The singer's father, James Haggard, added a pop-out dining area, a wash house and a hand-poured concrete bathtub and front step, while his mother added fruit trees, climbing roses and a grape arbor.
Before the future country legend was born in 1937, Haggard's family relocated to California from Oklahoma in 1934, after losing their barn in a fire during the Great Depression. They were content in California, but tragedy struck again in 1945, when Haggard's father died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage, kicking off years of rebellion, delinquency and jail for Haggard.
“He wasn’t a bad kid,” Rea says. “The poor child was just in pain. He was looking for his own answers and couldn’t find them.”
As of last year, the Haggards' boxcar house was occupied, although it had greatly deteriorated. The "Okie From Muskogee" singer wrote about the house's sad state in his 1999 autobiography, My House of Memories, saying that he was relieved his parents were not alive to see what had happened to their "wood and stucco jewel box."
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. More information is available on their website.