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Road Trip To Collect Dust Bowl Stories on 75th Anniversary of 'Grapes of Wrath'

Oct 2, 2013

"Young migratory mother, originally from Texas. On the day before the photograph was made she and her husband traveled 35 miles each way to pick peas. They worked 5 hours each and together earned $2.25. They have two young children . . . Live in auto camp." - at Edison in Kern County California - April 11, 1940
Credit Dorothea Lange / National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics

A group of artists is gearing up for a cross-country road trip that will end in California. It's part of a project to mark the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath." Steve Milne reports.

The trip starts Friday in Oklahoma, retracing the path the Joad family took along Route 66 in "The Grapes of Wrath" with stops in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

"We are as much as possible trying to follow the original Route 66, it's a little complicated, there are parts of the route that don't exist anymore," says Elizabeth Welden-Smith, who is helping to organize the road trip. She's with the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. Smith says they're taking three artists along.

"A filmmaker, a visual artist and a playwright, they're going to be stopping in different communities and talking to people and collecting everyday American stories of how they get through hard times," says Smith.

Smith says many of the challenges people faced 75 years ago during the Dust Bowl era still ring true for people today.

"The Joad family had this incredible struggle in the book but they kept going despite really challenging setbacks. So we want to get contemporary stories of what it is that keeps people going through challenging times," says Smith.

Those stories will be showcased at the Steinbeck Festival in Salinas next May. The road trip ends at a migrant labor camp in Arvin, California near Bakersfield on October 14th.