In 1941, Woody Guthrie convinced the Bonneville Power Administration to give him a job singing songs for a 30-day assignment writing about the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in northeastern Washington, at Coulee City. The dam would provide affordable electricity, dramatically increasing the quality of life for the poor and working class communities. Woody, consumed with his job, reached a new level of creativity in the month-long project.
"I got my job; it was to read some books about the Coulee dams, to walk up and down the rivers, and to see what I could find to make up songs about. I made up twenty-six. They played them over the loud speakers at meetings to sell bonds to carry the highlines from the dams to the little towns."
Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall named a Bonneville Power Administration substation in Guthrie's honor on April 6, 1966, eighteen months before Woody took his last breath of air on earth. Here is a copy of the letter Udall sent to Guthrie, which was later published as "A Tribute to Woody Guthrie" in Bound For Glory
The Secretary of the Interior
April 6, 1966
Dear Mr. Guthrie,
It gives me great pleasure to present you the Department of the Interior's Conservation Service Award. In conjunction with this award we are also naming a Bonneville Power Administration substation in your honor. It will be known hereafter as the Woody Guthrie Substation in recognition of the fine work you have done to make our people aware of their heritage and the land.
You sang that "this land belongs to you and me," and you sang from the heart of America that feels this about its land. You have articulated, in your songs, the sense of identification that each citizen of our country feels toward this land and the wonders, which it holds. You brought to your songs a heart as big as all outdoors, and we are fortunate to have music, which expresses the love and affection each of us feels, though we are unable to express it so eloquently, toward this landů"from California to the New York Island-from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters."
Yours was not a passing comment on the beauties of nature, but a living, breathing, singing force in our struggle to use our land and save it too. The greatness of this land is that people such as you, with creative talent, worked on it and that you told about that work-told about the power of the Bonneville Dam and the men who harnessed it, about the length of the Lincoln Highway and the men who laid it out. You have summarized the struggles and the deeply held convictions of all those who love our land fight to protect it.
Stewart L. Udall
Secretary of the Interior
Mr. Woodrow W. Guthrie
Brooklyn State Hospital
681 Clarkson Avenue
Brooklyn, New York