The restoration money is in the bank, the foundation is being laid and a tentative date set — July 29 — to move Merle Haggard’s childhood home to the Kern County Museum.
“I’m looking forward to seeing it on the road,” said Glenda Rankin, who has led the effort to move the Haggard family home since 2008. “It’s time for this project to be completed.”
Haggard intends to be present for the move, Rankin said. The July 29 date, proposed by the singer’s camp, comes three days before he is due in Mississippi to resume his tour.
However, before the museum can accept the railroad boxcar Haggard’s father converted into the family home, the foundation must be completed, said Roger Perez, executive director of the museum.
“We’re in the very final stretch here,” he said Tuesday. “It won’t be longer than August for sure but will probably be much, much sooner than that.”
The foundation that runs the county museum agreed to add the Haggard home to its collection of vintage buildings in late 2013 contingent upon a minimum of $50,000 in the bank for restoration, among other requirements.
Since then, Rankin and her group, Citizens Preserving History, have held several fundraisers to pay for restoration of the 1935 Haggard residence and construction of a new home for the man who had lived in the boxcar until several months ago, when work to prepare it for the move forced him into the main house on the Oildale property.
At a recent meeting of the museum board, Bakersfield philanthropist Cynthia Lake, through her charitable trust, made a donation of $50,150 to restore the boxcar, fulfilling the museum’s financial requirement.
“The project is another aspect of preserving our country music history and I felt it was long overdue to recognize the Haggard family and Merle for the work he does,” Lake said Tuesday.
“At the moment, I’m probably funding 73 percent of this project, so it’s been what I consider a working partnership between Glenda and I.”
Rankin is working with T&T Moving, which will use a crane to lift the intact boxcar and fit it onto a standard flat bed for transport to the museum. The rooms James Haggard added to the boxcar have been dismantled, the boards numbered and stacked for reassembly at the museum.
Plans were still being finalized for the procession down Chester, Rankin said.
“At this point, we are just trying to stay a step ahead of everything that’s taking place,” she said. “Merle will be there in his new bus following the boxcar down the road with us behind.”
Once the home is moved, title will be transferred to the museum, which will oversee restoration in consultation with Haggard’s sister, Lillian Haggard Rea.
“The deadline to get the restoration finished is December,” Perez said.