Sunday, October 20, 2013

Steinbeck Center in Salinas

While in Monterey, we drove over to Salinas, home of John Steinbeck.  The Steinbeck Center was one museum I didn't want.  I felt like I didn't get a lot of those 'standard' reading assignments in high school.  Back then it depended on what English or Literature teacher you had as to what 'classics' or authors you became familiar with.  Now that we were in Steinbeck country, I was interested in learning more.

I am now reading Steinbeck and it has really been good.  To my surprise, I feel as if I am becoming more familiar with what early life was like for my parents.  They both lived through the realities of the Depression and Steinbeck does a great job of creating the word pictures.

My most recent reading, "Grapes of Wrath", creates images of hardship that may have been real for them.  Neither of my parents were migrant workers or ones to talk about it much about their growing up years.  But now and again, we'd pick up a hint of what life was like being poor back in the 1930's.

The Steinbeck Center museum is well funded so it has a 'study center' look to it as if there are conferences or important research going on.  The facility is not especially large, but it has a museum area with displays and artifacts, a theater to show short videos about Steinbeck, as well as meeting rooms and other parts we did not venture into.
We saw a short film, then took our time in the museum area.  I liked how it was set up very informational displays. It starts off with a family tree of sorts that shows his ancestors and his immediate family.  He was married three times and had two sons.
Some of the displays were focused on famous works like "The Red Pony", "Grapes of Wrath" and "East of Eden".
A number of his works became motion pictures.  I'd love to get my hands on "Grapes of Wrath" with Henry Fonda.

Many of his works were about California and the areas where he lived.  But he also spent considerable time in New York where he met his first wife.  
During his later years, in 1960, Steinbeck became a full-fledged RVer and set out across America in a pick up truck that was modified with a camper on it.  
He was ahead of his time on that note and traveled with his wife's poodle 'Charley'.  He wrote about it one of his last works, "Travels With Charley - In Search of America".    
At the time we went on his 10,000 mile, 11 week journey, it was thought that he was ill and according to his son, 'wanted to see America one more time'.  

His account appeared in three installments in Holiday magazine in 1961 and was published in book form in 1962.  Later, the book's authenticity as a work on 'non-fiction' came into doubt with published accounts that his wife joined him many times during the trip.

Later in 1962, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He died of congestive heart failure in 1968 after being a life-long smoker.

I learned a lot about John Steinbeck, one of Americas great authors.  After I finish 'East of Eden', I will probably know more.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...


  1. Try movies and I just bet you could buy a copy of that movie..It is well worth having in your video library....One of our fav's!!

  2. I wasn't a Steinbeck fan when I was young but it's amazing how my tastes have changed as I finally grow up and realize how important his writings are at documenting our history here in America.