News Column

Not a lot of movement on moving Merle's house - yet

June 11, 2014

By Jennifer Self, The Bakersfield Californian

June 11--Fans of Merle Haggard are easy to come by in Bakersfield, but fans willing to cough up the money needed to move his boyhood home to the Kern County Museum are harder to find, say the two sisters leading the effort.

And they just don't understand that.

"Our disappointment comes from how many hundreds of thousands of people live in Bakersfield," said Dianne Sharmon, who, with her sister Glenda Rankin, is working to raise funds to move the boxcar Haggard's father converted into a home in the mid-1930s.

"If everybody pulled together, it would be done."

But they have made some headway. About $50,000 has been raised since October, when the foundation that runs the museum voted to accept the home, with a list of conditions. That puts the sisters about halfway toward their goal.

"It's going to happen. Our hearts' desire is that we do it before we lose Lillian or Merle," said Sharmon, referring to the country legend and his older sister, Lillian Haggard Rea.

The next fundraising event will be held the evening of June 21 at the museum. In addition to music and line-dancing lessons, musicians like Tommy Hays will share stories from the heyday of the Bakersfield Sound, a muscular brand of country music forged in local barrooms half a century ago.

Families are encouraged to bring picnic baskets and blankets, though "Okie dinners" of pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread will be sold as well.

The highlight, however, will be a rare opportunity to view several of the museum's Bakersfield Sound artifacts, said curator of collections Lori Wear, including some new acquisitions like sheet music and phonograph records.

In fact, the proceeds of the event are earmarked not for the house-moving project, though honoring Haggard's legacy certainly is part of the fundraising goal. The gate receipts will benefit an ongoing effort to build a Bakersfield Sound exhibit at the museum.

"It's so baffling to us that in Nashville -- 2,000 miles away from Bakersfield -- they're honoring the Bakersfield Sound and we need to honor them as well," said Rankin, referring to a vast exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum honoring Haggard, Owens and other local performers that will end its two-year run in December.

"The backbone of our county is the country-western scene and oil and agriculture. Those three things make Bakersfield what it is today."

Rankin and Sharmon will sell hats, shirts and other merchandise associated with the house-moving project at the event, which won't be their last crack at fundraising.

"We're open to suggestions," Rankin said. "We need that little boost in the arm."


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Source: Bakersfield Californian, The (CA)

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