As our MobileBooth West team headed north from LA this week, the concrete grid gradually gave way to wide flat fields flanked by mountains and the Pacific Ocean — a landscape known to the world through the words of novelist John Steinbeck.
On February 26th, we opened the booth in downtown Salinas, Steinbeck’s birthplace and “America’s Salad Bowl”–the surrounding land produces most of the greens consumed in the U.S. On Steinbeck’s 107th birthday, we found ourselves in the midst of the Salinas farmers market between tables of local produce, and the balloons and cake at the nearby National Steinbeck Center.
Among the stories shared in the booth so far were the recollections of Doris and Joe Bragdon (pictured below), “Okies” who, like the Joad’s in Grapes of Wrath, made their way west from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl to find work in California, often living on river banks or in government-funded tent camps.
Joe remembered visiting Doris after a day working on cannery row and having to keep himself–and the strong smell of sardines–out on the porch.
In a place known for its artichoke, garlic, spinach and strawberry production we have heard from contemporary farm workers and labor activists as well as those whose lives intersected with the labor history of the place.
Carmen Obeso told her granddaughter, Carmela Moreno (pictured above) about the time Cesar Chavez stopped by the house for a haircut and ended up staying the night.
We look forward to the next few weeks of hearing about the experiences that converge in this fertile place.