The Norman Transcript

Headlines

September 15, 2013

This home is your home

OKEMAH, Okla. — When Woody Guthrie’s dilapidated boyhood home was ordered torn down in the late 1970s, the demolition reflected the strained relationship between conservative Oklahoma and the native son famous for his folk singing and progressive politics.

Those tensions persisted for more than a generation, but attitudes about Guthrie have slowly softened. Now developers working with the blessing of Guthrie’s relatives have announced plans to rebuild his 1860s-era boyhood home in Okemah, a time-worn town of 3,300 people desperately seeking tourism dollars.

“If you were to put a Mount Rushmore of American music here in the Midwest, the first two artists on it would be Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie,” said Johnny Buschardt, a spokesman for the project. “Without Woody, there wouldn’t be a Bob Dylan or a Bruce Springsteen.”

Best known for the song “This Land is Your Land,” Guthrie came of age during the Great Depression and later embraced left-wing politics, including for a time some tenets of communism. By weaving social issues into his music, he reimagined folk songs as platforms for protest, starting a creative tradition carried on by scores of other top artists.

In hundreds of folk songs and ballads, Guthrie’s lyrics celebrated American workers, lamented the woes of the poor and advocated for civil rights. Although revered as one of the best songwriters in American history, he was rarely acknowledged, let alone honored, by his home state, even for decades after his death in 1967.

“When I was going to school (in the 1960s), it was almost like his name wasn’t supposed to be mentioned. And when it was brought up in class, the teacher would change the subject,” recalls resident Ric Denney, whose family has roots in town dating to the 1920s.

It took more than 30 years, but Okemah now celebrates Guthrie with an annual music festival that draws thousands of people from around the world. Tributes such as the mural of Guthrie strumming his guitar on the side of a downtown building are commonplace these days.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Headlines
  • Tornado Repair Oklahoma officials account for $9.4M in disaster spending

    OKLAHOMA CITY — Nearly a year after deadly tornadoes hit central Oklahoma, officials announced that they have spent close to $9.4 million in private donations on relief efforts....

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Moore schools receive $500K

    As Mickey Davis addressed the auditorium, the picture of a bright-eyed, happy 8-year-old on the podium in front of her could not be ignored. Davis’ son, Kyle Davis, was one of seven who lost their lives in the May 2013 tornadoes at Plaza ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Man arraigned after wife’s death

    A judge on Wednesday denied bond for a 37-year-old Norman man formally charged with stabbing his wife to death with a kitchen knife early Saturday morning in their southeast Norman apartment. Abid Sandhu, 37, was arraigned before Special ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Earth Day activities continue this week

    Oklahoma is no stranger to extreme weather, but many say those extremes are even greater than before. Norman resident and biologist Kathy Rand is convinced those climate irregularities are a result of climate change caused by pollution, ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Severe storms loom across central U.S. this weekend

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Forecasters are predicting a significant chance of strong tornadoes this weekend across a large part of the nation’s mid-section, an outbreak that could stretch from the Great Plains to the Midwest and South....

    April 25, 2014

  • Telling stories of a distant land

    Bakhtawar Aamire of Pakistan has been telling the same sad legend to Oklahomans for the past month. The story goes like this: Long ago, a young woman in love lived in the area that is now the city of Gujrat in the Punjab Province of ...

    April 25, 2014

  • NPS announces severe weather procedures

    Norman Public Schools is clarifying new severe weather/tornado procedures with letters to parents and a website that details the district’s severe weather plan....

    April 25, 2014

  • Sam Noble honored with national medal

    The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma will be awarded the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community, OU announced Thursday....

    April 25, 2014

  • Manufacturers see better times for economy, jobs

    NEW YORK — Companies are finally starting to spend some of the cash they’ve been sitting on, and that could mean a stronger economy and more jobs are on the way. Industrial companies such as General Electric, Honeywell and Caterpillar ...

    April 25, 2014

  • Workshop to empower young women

    BeautyIS, a free event targeted for girls ages 11 to 14 — with the purpose of helping them uncover the beauty within themselves — will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the LoveWorks Center, 127 Main St....

    April 25, 2014