I was walking though Home Depot the other day when, in the garden section, I saw a sign advertising a sale on “Creosote” Bushes. Now, I have to say upfront that I have absolutely no idea what a Creosote Bush is. But, the very sight of the word Creosote immediately brought to mind the Woody Guthrie song “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" which, in the opening verse contains the line “The crops are all in, the peaches are rotting/The oranges are piled in their creosote dump” (yeah right, like you wouldn't have thought of the exact same thing....).
The song is about a 1948 plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon in California. The plane was carrying 29 illegal immigrants who were being deported back to Central America. Woody Guthrie wrote the song as a protest to what he felt was the openly racist treatment of the immigrants.
For starters, in the newspaper article dealing with the crash, only the three white crew members were named. The 29 passengers were referred to only as “deportees”. On top of that, the dead were buried in a mass, unmarked grave. The workers at the crash site did not finish placing all of the bodies in the grave on the first day. They clocked out at the usual time and left an open pit full of makeshift caskets, with the remainder of the dead left where they lay until the next morning.
In the chorus, Woody gives names to the nameless “deportees”, singing, “Goodbye to my Juan, Goodbye Rosalita/Adios mi amigos, Jesus y Maria/You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane/All they will call you will be “Deportee”.
As a wander through the plumbing aisle, looking for a 2” to 1 1/2” drain coupling, it strikes me how relevant the song is to today, what with the immigration debate, talk of border fences, and modern day minutemen. Some things, I think to myself, haven’t changed all that much in 60 years.
Coupling in hand, I head over to look for some heat tape and begin to think about what America was like in 1948. The war was over, and so was The Great Depression. Truman had narrowly won the Whitehouse and about to embark on what would become just one of many modern interventionist wars, this one in Korea. My father was 7. My mother was 5.
Finding the heat tape, I set out to find some hinges for the door of my shed. After staring at a dizzying display of hinges for ten minutes, I ask a teenager in a Home Depot smock where I can find the type of hinge I need. He begins to stare at the display along with me.
As we both search. I begin to make a mental list of all the things that have changed in the last 60 years. Forget computers, the internet, playstation. Back then, those things seemed as far off and Star Treks transporter beam. In 1948, people were still excited about refrigeration.
In 1948, only the richest people could even contemplate buying a television. My father, the man who now has a flatscreen TV with a DVR cable box, would not have a TV in his house until 1956, when he has 15. To quote from some movie or TV show that I can’t remember at the moment, “When I was your age, television was called radio”. And listen to the radio my dad did. Mostly westerns like The Lone Ranger, Straight Arrow, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. He would race home after school and curl up on the floor in front of the radio and listen with baited breath to their adventures, always ready to “Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!!!”
I have XM Radio, and one of my favorite channels is the Old Time Radio channel that plays radio dramas from the 40’s and 50’s. I do like westerns, but my favorites are the science fiction shows like Dimension X or X Minus One, or Into Tomorrow. I especially like the ones that take place in “the far off future year of 1995” or some such. In these shows, in the year 1995, there are always spaceships, and people are living and working on the Moon and Mars. There are Robots and flying cars and,,,,,
I begin to think of the Allstate commercial where the spokesman is lamenting the fact that it is the year 2007 and there are no flying cars. Where are the flying cars? What happened? Why don’t we have them? WE WERE PROMISED FLYING CARS!!!!
So by this time, I am in my non-flying car, and three quarters of the way home, and I remember that I forgot to buy a funnel….
I hate when that happens....