Western Trips

Western Trips

Thursday, February 9, 2012

John Steinbeck Center and Monterey California / A Western Trip

 
monterey california harbor
Harbor at Monterey California
The famous American writer, John Ernst Steinbeck,Jr., born in Salinas California in 1902, might best be remembered by his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which was published in 1939 near the end of the Great Depression.

John Steinbeck's  Monterey California

While being the author of twenty-seven books, John Steinbeck was also a very big part of Monterey California.

Monterey County California has many historic sites connected with Steinbeck including it's Cannery Row, a big attraction for tourists. In fact, anyone who has been on a road trip to Monterey knows how picturesque this coastal city is. Many tourists enjoy the Monterey hotels on Cannery Row which are directly on the water.

Monterey is located just about 100 miles south of San Francisco and because of this close proximity to the City By the Bay, it's quite a favorite side trip and remains a top item of things to do in San Francisco. Lodging and restaurants in Monterey can fit any travel budget and, if you haven't traveled there, you really need to add it to your California vacation planner.

In addition to visiting Monterey, you'll want to set time aside to visit the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas California which is a great way to learn more about this unique writer. The John Steinbeck biography encompasses both Salinas CA and the Monterey area. The Steinbeck Center lets you view the life of Steinbeck through interactive, multi-sensory exhibits for all ages. There are rare artifacts and seven themed theaters showcasing East of Eden, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and much more. It's the best place in the world to gain insight into John Steinbeck's life and writings It's a fun and educational experience and definitely worth your time.

John Steinebeck

cannery row in monterey
Cannery Row in Monterey California
The John Steinbeck biography includes being raised in Salinas California just a short drive east of Monterey and a graduation from Salinas High School in 1919. He went on to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, just south of San Francisco. Even though Steinbeck attended Stanford for five years, he left without receiving his degree. From there he decided to travel to New York City and work at odd jobs while trying to start a writing career.

The New York writing career venture wasn't working out and Steinbeck then decided it was time to head back across the continent to California. He found a job as a caretaker at a home at Lake Tahoe California and worked there from 1926-28.

Steinbeck married for the first time in 1930, right at the start of the Great Depression. His bride was named Carol Henning who he had met while working at Lake Tahoe. Steinbeck and his new wife for some time in a cottage in Pacific Grove, directly next to Monterey and near the point of the Monterey Peninsula. The cottage was owned by his father who worked for the Monterey County government. During this period he spent time caring for his ill mother who resided in Salinas. Steinbeck's mother passed away in 1934 and, as events would have it, his father passed away about a year later in 1935.

Steinbeck was also focused on his writing projects while living in the rent free cottage in Pacific Grove. The elder Steinbecks also bankrolled his writing efforts with loans starting in 1928 and supplied him with paper so that he could subsist and totally concentrate on his writing.

Steinbeck's Writings

john steinbeck poster
Banner on Cannery Row
John Steinbeck first published the novel, "Cup of Gold" in 1929 and three shorter books between then and 1934. Steinbeck's  novel, "Tortilla Flat", was set in Monterey and published in 1935 and was his first critical success.

In 1939, he published which may have been the most noted Steinbeck novel, "The Grapes of Wrath", which wrote about a family, after losing their Oklahoma farm, journeys to California, where they face hardship and injustice as migrant workers. The novel hit a chord with many in the American public who, after witnessing a financial depression along with the "dust bowl" years in the plains states, journeyed to California over historic Route 66 to build a new life and search for opportunity. For many Oklahomans, the Grapes of Wrath exemplified life in the 1930's.

Steinbeck then published "The Log From The Sea of Cortez". This work was the result of a six week trip around the Gulf of California on a borrowed sardine boat with a good friend, Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist. Steinbeck accompanied Ricketts on this voyage to obtain marine biological specimens and, as a result, this publication is believed by most Steinbeck historians to be his most important work of non-fiction. Unfortunately for the couple, the Steinbecks were divorced not long after his return from the trip to Baja California. Most reports were that the marriage had been in trouble for some time and perhaps the voyage with Ricketts hurried things along.
Steinbeck the War Correspondent


national steinbeck center
National Steinbeck Center
With the start of World War Two, John Steinbeck did what several other writers and journalists did, he became a war correspondent.

Actually, Steinbeck became a correspondent about a year before another popular writer, Ernest Hemingway, decided to do the same. This was a bit surprising since Hemingway had already been involved with the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930's.

Steinbeck was employed by the New York Herald Tribune and the London Daily Express. He was based out of London but went many places including the war zone in North Africa. He also was present during the U.S. landing at Salerno Sicily. Steinbeck went back home to California in 1944 after being injured in a munitions explosion.

The Steinbeck novel, "Cannery Row", published in 1945,  takes place on a street lined with sardine factories which was exactly what Monterey's Cannery Row was at that time. In fact, the street had been named Ocean View Avenue and renamed Cannery Row in honor of the Steinbeck novel. The Cannery Row book, similar to The Grapes of Wrath, was set during the Great Depression. Today, Cannery Row is lined with shops, hotels and restaurants.

Another short story on our Western Trips site regards Jack London and California's Jack London State Park near Sonoma California, just north of San Francisco. A visit to the Jack London Park is a good and quite interesting addition to your Sonoma Wine Country tour.

Visit the John Steinbeck Center in Salinas Califronia

There is much more to learn about the amazing literary life of John Steinbeck. The Steinbeck Center in Salinas California is a great place to start. The National Steinbeck Center is located at One Main Street, in the historic Oldtown Salinas, the birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck.

You may also want to stop by at John Steinbeck's childhood home which is located at 132 Central Avenue in Salinas. Being located only about 17 miles east of Monterey, about 60 miles south of San Jose and 100 miles south of San Francisco, a visit to the National Steinbeck Center can be combined with visits to other nearby historic sites such as the Carmel Mission and the Mission San Juan Bautista.

A visit to the National Steinbeck Center makes the perfect short weekend road trip or a good addition to your California vacation planner.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)


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