Levan Center hosts discussions on Dust Bowl

Richard J Peterson

Elias C. Ahumada, Reporter

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The Norman Levan Center for Humanities at Bakersfield College was host to three BC professors in the third part of a series in honor of the 75th anniversary of “The Grapes of Wrath,” on March 25.

Those in attendance included more than 40 people, including BC professors and students.

The professors who spoke were allotted about 20 minutes to weigh their thoughts on the book and give a little input from their studies about the Dust Bowl. Randy Beeman and Robert Torres, two BC history professors, were part of the panel, and Michael Harvath, economics professor, was also part of the panel.

All three professors have extensive literary backgrounds, all three having written books, and one professor having also written for encyclopedias.

Torres talked about how Mexico had a huge impact on the labor in California, especially after the Mexican Revolutionary War, and how Mexicans also migrated to California for work along with the Oakies.

“Oklahoma was destined for gloom,” said Beeman.

“… Bad soil, tax pay, illiteracy, high rates of tenancy, and high risk of violence, radical politics, and desperate evangelical religious movements,” he said, referencing the many reasons Oklahoma agriculture suffered so much during the Dust Bowl, and why many Oakies made the trip to California.

Beeman also noted that Buck Owens, a famous Bakersfield native, was also part of the migration from Oklahoma saying, “Buck Owens, who his family left Texas during the Dust Bowl, finally got to Bakersfield in 1951 and he came here for opportunities.”

Overall, the panelists all seemed pretty knowledgeable on “The Grapes of Wrath” and about the actual events that happened during the Dust Bowl era.

The next event in honor of the 75th anniversary of the novel will be April 24, which will offer two events, at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The guest speaker for this event will be author of the novel “Mary Coin,” Marisa Silver.

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