Merle Haggard gift displays a bit of future exhibit: `America on the Move'

Wednesday, May 28th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A gift from country music singer Merle Haggard provided a first glimpse Wednesday of what will be the largest-ever exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

The 26,000-square-foot ``America on the Move'' will document American transportation from 1876 to 1999. It opens November 22.

The gift ceremony was held on a 40-foot concrete slab of Highway 66, the road that carried thousands of migrants west to California in Dust Bowl days of the Depression. The Haggard family made the trip in 1935 in a 1926 Chevrolet with a two-wheel trailer.

Haggard, born two years later, gave the museum family relics taken with them from Oklahoma: a kerosene lamp, an old trunk, his father's first courting gift to his mother _ a scarf commemorating a Woodrow Wilson campaign for the presidency.

Also in the exhibit will be a 90-foot, coal-burning ``1401'' locomotive that pulled President Franklin D. Roosevelt's funeral train in 1945; a narrow-gauge locomotive that traveled between small towns south of San Francisco in 1876; and a 1903 Winton, the first auto driven across the United States.

Haggard, 66, appeared with his sister, Lillian Haggard Hoge, who made the trip west with their parents in 1935. She was 15 when he was born in Bakersfield, Calif. He left home at 14 and got into trouble.

``I've been on both sides of the law,'' Haggard said. ``Things happened right for me _ I don't know why.''

He served 27 months in California's San Quentin prison for trying to burglarize a Bakersfield roadhouse, long before he became one of America's most successful writers and singers of country music.