Saving Merle Haggard's boyhood home

A piece of country music history is one step closer to being preserved as a fundraiser was held Friday night at the Kern County Basque Club to save Merle Haggard's boyhood boxcar home.
BAKERSFIELD,CA-- A piece of country music history is one step closer to being preserved as a fundraiser was held Friday night at the Kern County Basque Club to save Merle Haggard's boyhood boxcar home.

As one of Haggard's song suggests there was plenty of Bubble Up and "Rainbow Stew" to go around. Starting in the 1940s the Basque Club was known as the Rainbow Gardens and it was one of the first venues Haggard played. It was that sense of history that made Frankie Ruiz want to attend.

"I think it's really important,” Ruiz said. “I don't think we take enough time to preserve the things that really give us our whole heritage and background."

The event was to raise money for the restoration of the boxcar Haggard grew up in. A home was eventually built around the boxcar which currently is in Oildale.

More than 250 people showed up and organizers, like Glenda Rankin, feel they put a good dent in the $120,000 it will take to move and renovate the boxcar from Oildale to the Kern County Museum.

"Lets just say I think we raised over $10,000 and probably more than that," Rankin said.

Haggard's sister, Lillian Haggard Rea, thinks it is more than just their childhood home they are trying to save. She says Merle has told her the boxcar is about honoring their parents.

"It’s all coming back,” Rea said. “It’s reminding him of his childhood and all the wonderful times he had with his father there and it is touching him deeply."

Organizers are planning another music type fundraiser April 6, Haggard's birthday, at the Kern County Museum.

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