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Woody Guthrie

on Los Angeles



I sung songs for the cotton pickers and cotton strikers, and for migratory workers, packers, canning house workers, fruit pickers, and all sorts of other country and city workers.  I wrote a daily article for the People's Daily World, called Woody Says.  I always read the radical papers over my program and took sides with the workers all I knew how.


I drew pen sketches for the Peoples World and learned all I could from the speeches and debates, forums, picnics, where famous labor leaders spoke.  I heard William Z. Foster, Mother Bloor, Gurley Flynn, Blackie Myers, I heard most all of them and played my songs on their platforms.


I hated the false-front decay and rot of California's fascistic oil and gas deals, the ptomaine poison and brass knucks in the jails and prisons, the dumped oranges and peaches and grapes and cherries rotting and running down into little streams of creosote poisoned juices.


I saw the hundreds of thousands of stranded, broke, hungry, idle, miserable people that lined the highways all out through the leaves and the underbrush.  I heard these people sing in their jungle camps and in their Federal Work Camps and they sang songs I made up for them over the airwaves.


I went to fancy Hollywood drinking parties and rubbed my elbows with the darkling glasses that they wore over their eyes to keep down everything.   I met up with an actor named Will Geer and while we drove my '31 Chevvery around the sad canyons to play for migrant strikers, Mary gave birth on the side of a Glendale mountain to a fine big son which wo named Bill Rogers Guthrie.


Labor in general, at that time, was in the nickel and the penny stages, very few strong and well run unions but lots of tear gas and guns being used by hired thugs and all kinds of vigilantes.  The movement could not pay me enough money to keep up my eats, gas, oil, travel expenses, except five dollars here and three there, two and a quarter yonder, at places where I sung.  I thougt that if I could drift back towards New York and get myself a new fresh start, things might run smoother.  So Mary, Sue, Teeny, Bill and me took off across the rims and ledges of the Two Thousand Mile Desert to crawl and sweat and ache and pound back again to our little shack house in Texas.  In the oil and farming town of Konawa, Oklahoma, I took my brother Roy's $35, and thanked him, told him I was whipping her up on towards New York City, and showed him an old letter that Will Geer had written to me back in Texas.


I made up my song, "Union Maid" on the typewriter of Bob and Ina Wood, the organizers of the Communist Party in Oklahoma.  They gave me as good a feeling as I ever got from being around anybody in my whole life. They made me see why I had to keep going around and around with my guitar making up songs and singing.  I never did know that the human race was this big before.  I never did really know that the fight had been going on so long and so bad.  I never had been able to look out over and across the slum section nor a sharecropper farm and connect it up with the owner and the landlord and the guards and the police and the dicks and the bulls and the vigilante men with their black sedans and sawed off shot guns.  Mussolini had already bombed and strafed the Ethiopians to death, and Hitler was waving his arms and doing little jig dances toward Poland.



From My Life, 1947.