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StoryCorps in Oklahoma: "California didn't like Okies." (Aug 26, 2011)

This week's StoryCorps in Oklahoma account comes from (then) 80 year old Vivian McBride, who joined her son Larry in the StoryCorps booth late last year.  Vivian tells of her early days growing up in Western Oklahoma, and why (like so many during the days of the Dust Bowl) she and her family took part in the great westward 'Okie' migration.  

Vivian McBride: “During the Dust Bowl we lived in Oklahoma. My grandmother used to keep bushel baskets of rags… When she looked out and could see the dust coming over the hills… It looked like a ball rolling, big red balls rolling over the hills out in western Oklahoma, outside of Cheyenne. And, she would grab all of us and say, “Shut the windows!” And we’d chink the cracks with a case knife with these rags to keep the dirt from rolling into the house. And even then, you could sweep up a bowl or a bucket of dirt out of the house. Even with all the doors closed, the dirt came in through cracks.”

Larry McBride: “That was a tough time… No work.”

VM: “Nope. That’s why we went to California. We travelled in a two-seated car and we stopped… They didn’t have “parks” along the road, so we’d find rocks, build a fire, and cook a meal beside the road. Fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. Boy, did we eat fried potatoes and scrambled eggs.”

LM: “What was life like in California?”

VM: “It was great! We had Hispanic neighbors and we traded tortillas for biscuits. (laughs) We loved living in California because fruit was very plentiful… So, there was always fruit in the house. But, California didn’t like Okies.”

LM: “No.”

VM: “They hated us, made fun of us, and we talked funny...” (laughs)

LM: “We still do! I think there are a few songs about that.”

VM: “We would have stayed, but Mother hated California/Arizona. She just was such a miserable person that Dad finally gave up and we came back here.” (laughs)

Produced for KGOU by Jim Johnson, with interviews recorded by
StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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