Woody Guthrie: These people just got up and they bundled up their little belongings, they throwed in one or two little things they thought that they’d need. They couldn’t take it all because they didn’t have room and they didn’t have a car and they didn’t have gasoline and they didn’t have the money, but anyway, they had heard about the land of California, where you sleep outdoors at night, where you work all day in the big fruit orchards and make enough to live on and get by on and live decent on and you work hard, and work honest, and you…supposed to be, according to the handbills they pass out down in that country, you’re supposed to have a wonderful chance to succeed in California. So, they just naturally drift that way.
Steve Earle: And Woody joined them, hoping to find work as a cowboy singer along with his cousin, “Oklahoma Jack” Guthrie, who was already in Los Angeles. Woody would send for Mary and the children; but first, he had to make it to California himself.
Woody Guthrie: They traveled fifteen-hundred or two thousand miles in these old broke-down jalopies and they went to California and I was one of the first bunches to go to California, ‘cause when people start going somewhere, I’m always kind of a dadgum feller that jumps up and takes off right while they’re talking about it. Anyway, when I got to California, I seen things out there that I wouldn’t believe if people that, uh, if people had sat and tell me that there was hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and thousands of families of people livin’ around under railroad bridges, down along the river bottoms, and the old cardboard houses and old rusty beat-up houses that they made out of tote sacks and old dirty rags and corrugated iron that they got out of the dumps and old tin and flattened out and old orange crates that they’ve been able to tear up and get boards out of, I wouldn’t believe it. ‘Cause all these people didn’t go out there to loaf around, they didn’t go out there to have a good time. They were out there for one reason and absolutely one reason, and that was because they thought that they could get some work out there.
Steve Earle: Woody was lucky. He found a job hosting a program and singing on a Los Angeles radio station. But he also began visiting the migrant camps, reporting on their conditions for a local newspaper. And the more he saw, the angrier he became—especially when the papers and the radio painted the migrants as filthy grifters looking for an easy handout.
Woody Guthrie: They called us “dust bowl refugees”. But then there’s more than one kind of a refugee. There’s refugees that take refuge under railroad bridges, and there is refugees that take refugee and…take refuge in public office. But when we was out in California, all that the native sons and daughters called us was just “dust bowl refugees”.