Merle Haggard’s Childhood Boxcar House Moved to Museum
Country legend Merle Haggard rose to fame from humble beginnings, growing up in a train boxcar home in Oildale, Calif. Now the unique dwelling will be honored for its service to the country community by being featured in the Kern County Museum in nearby Bakersfield.
Haggard’s father, James, bought the boxcar in 1935 for $500, and together, the family made it into a home. Haggard’s mother, Flossie Mae, planted fruit trees, climbing roses and a grape arbor to spruce up the place, and James added a pop-out dining area, a wash house, and a hand-poured concrete bathroom and front step. Flossie Mae even hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 22 people once in the modest abode.
The relocation ceremony took place July 29, 2015, which Haggard and his sister, Lillian Haggard Rae, 93, both attended.
“The walls were thick: cool in the summer and warm in winter,” Rae tells the New York Times.
The Haggard family underwent several periods of hard times, first losing their barn to a fire in Oklahoma during the Depression. After relocating to California in 1934, the family had just begun establishing their new life when tragedy struck again, this time with a sudden brain hemorrhage that killed Haggard’s father. The blow greatly affected Haggard emotionally and triggered a string of rebellious behavior for the boy, eventually leading to a stint in prison before he turned his life around.
“He wasn’t a bad kid,” Rea recalls. “The poor child was just in pain. He was looking for his own answers and couldn’t find them.”
Until recently, the home was occupied, but had deteriorated greatly. Haggard said in his autobiography, released in 1999, he was glad his parents were no longer alive to see what had become of the “wood and stucco jewel box." Thanks to an online campaign, however, Help Save Hag’s Boxcar, the home was rescued and will be restored for the museum display.
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