“StoryCrops”

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.

california oranges

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.

mby005088_g2 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.

mby005130_g2
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.



9 Responses to ““StoryCrops””

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • Being a native of the Monterey Peninsula, I was thrilled to see that StoryCorps was heading to Salinas. As a kid, Mom would always drag us along to shop the farmers produce stands, and we did a fair share of gleaning, being raised in a frugal, Ukrainian-descended household, eating a lot of vegetables. I love the mix of peoples who populate my home region, and deeply appreciate discovering that the aboriginal people of the area are now more accepted, along with the richness of the Hispanic and European and Asian cultures so prevalent in the area. I remember life growing up in Seaside and Monterey as a real “salad bowl” of races, traditions, languages and beliefs. Thank you for capturing these stories and sharing them with us all. Last week, StoryCorps ended it’s month-long visit here in Eugene, Oregon, where I now live, so it’s been a double serving of meaningful encounters and some terrific storytelling!

    Comment from Paula Marie Gourley on June 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Wonderful portraits! I love the two v-necks and the two generations in red!

    Comment from Leslie Locketz on April 25, 2009 at 8:35 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • “trabajando por” – comes to mind for both the dust bowl survivors and the waves of migrant labor before and since. I look forward to hearing more before you leave the central valley – great post and pictures!

    Comment from Christy on March 14, 2009 at 10:46 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • MMMMM! Fresas!

    Comment from Jeremy on March 13, 2009 at 3:19 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Great pictures. The stories you mention sound really interesting, I hope we get to hear them!

    Comment from Megan on March 12, 2009 at 4:23 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • john steinbeck ate sang’s! (or so i’ve heard.)

    Comment from mike d on March 9, 2009 at 4:16 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Wow. Can’t wait to hear more. Love the title.

    Comment from Nina on March 9, 2009 at 3:59 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • What a wonderful project!

    Comment from Sea-Chel on March 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • this looks amazing! i can’t wait to listen.

    Comment from clair t on March 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm - Reply to this Comment

Leave a Reply


  • Major Funding Provided By

  • National Broadcast Sponsors

  • National Partners

    NPR American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress