Tag Archives: Woody Guthrie

Visiting Tulsa’s Woodie Guthrie Center


Right after Christmas me, son Logan and brother Bob visited the Woody Guthrie Center in downtown Tulsa. The center is the archive for almost everything Woody Guthrie and they have a small museum showing off some of his papers, musical instruments, artwork, and of course his music. 


They have on display lots of his papers with lyrics and notes, letters and such.


He put his stamp on his musical instruments including woodburning and ink. You may notice that on this violin he says it helped kill ten fascists. He was in the merchant marine during World War II and served on three ships that were sunk. (If I remember right.)


He wrote on all sorts of materials. You can tell he hated fascism. One interesting segment is that he lived in an apartment owned by Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump in New York. Woody didn’t really care for what he considered racist housing policy. 


The museum also has a Virtual Reality experience of the dust bowl that is very eerie. Here are brother Bob and son Logan with the VR goggles.


The center also has a small space for special exhibits. This time they had a lot of memorabilia from John Cougar Mellencamp including recordings of his songs and quite a bit of material of Mellencamp talking about his music. I found it quite interesting.


As part of the Mellencamp exhibit was this reel to reel recorder/player. I tried to explain to my son how cool these things were and how expensive they were and then to why a ipod touch like mine totally outclasses these things. Reel to reel tape machines are still  very cool in my book!!

Check the centers web site for information on hours, location, and exhibits coming up. They have an exhibit on Leonard Bernstein coming up in January. I’ll  be checking it out. I got to see Bernstein at the premiere of one of his operas in Houston back in the 80’s. Everybody in the crowd was yelling “Bernie” like they knew him or something.

I am linking with Our World Tuesday

Woody Guthrie’s “House of Earth”

Woody Guthrie - House of Earth cover image

Woody Guthrie wrote House of Earth in 1949 and set in the 1930’s on a farm in the Texas Panhandle. It has two main characters Tike and Ella May Hamlin who are struggling to make a go of it sharecropping wheat on a dry farm during the depression. The book was never published until recently when it was discovered and published in 2013.

Three things about the book interested me. First the book is unabashedly political in tone. Guthrie speaks about the various interests in business and government that he thinks keep people down. Nothing surprising there, many people here in Oklahoma, where he came from regard him as a communist. Second, the first part of the book features a long very explicit sex scene that is very raw and down to earth. It will probably curl the toes of almost anybody that reads it. Toward the end of the book is a very graphic baby delivery scene. I guess the one leads to the other you could say. I am thinking no wonder the book wasn’t published, who would touch it back

The third, is the voice of the book. You can sure tell that Guthrie is a song writer. The language is strong,direct and very readable and like a song. Some books I read for the plot, others for the action, I loved this book  for the writing. Guthrie can write and comes out like a song, it flows and it goes here there and everywhere.  The writing really surprised me. I was not expecting much and boy I was surprised in a good way. I like the good way surprises.

#woodie #guthrie exhibit at #central_library #tulsa - this machine kills fascists

The fourth thing, and another surprising thing, was that Guthrie used the book to push adobe home construction. He saw it as a way of building inexpensive, durable, comfortable houses for the people. In fact that is where he got the title of the book.

An adobe house, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, converted to solar energy heating..., 04/1974

(House in Santa Fe, 1974, Photograph from US National Archives on Flickr Commons)

He spends considerable time in the book writing about shoddy wooden shacks with no insulation, termites, and rot.  Adobe is basically dried mud and comes from the earth. He saw adobe houses as houses for everyman

I don’t know how great a read this book is but it certainly was interesting because of who the author was, the intense scenes and language, and the strong (not obscene) language, plus the outspoken political tone and the surprise interest in adobe. All I can say is that I liked it.

Below is a time lapse video of the construction of an adobe house in Peru.