Strawberry picking was a great equalizer

May 22nd, 2009 by Ken

Everybody picked strawberries when I was a kid.   Growing up in the Northwest in the 1950’s, as soon as school was out in June, every kid from 10 on up, took to the strawberry fields to pick the newest crop.

It didn’t make any difference if you were rich or poor.  Every kid picked strawberries.

The rich kids would be dropped off at the strawberry fields by their parents, the poor kids would ride the berry bus for what seemed like hours, just to get to the field.

Poor kids picked berries because we needed the money.  The rich kids picked berries because their parents thought it taught them the benefits of work.

The weather was always cold in the morning and the rows were always wet with dew.  But after an hour or so of picking, the sun would come up and the jackets would come off.

LIke all kids, we got into mischief.  We started berry fights, dumped dirt into a rivals flat and generally did what kids do.  But the row bosses were on hand to make certain it didn’t get out of control and that all the berries were picked.

We couldn’t cherry pick, taking just the largest berries and moving on.  We had to pick every berry on the plant, and if we didn’t, the row boss sent us back to redo the row.

At lunch time, we’d look for our lunch sack which we had hidden in the grass.  Of course all of the kids had done the same thing, except the rich kids, who’s parents brought them lunch.

And as soon as we had finished eating, it was back to work, until mid-afternoon when the berry bus would arrive to take us back home.  We made 50 cents a flat and in a good day we could make $5.  Of course, I never had a good day and the best I ever did was $4 one time.

Everybody picked strawberries, even the rich kids.  Strawberry picking was the great equalizer.

As the summer went on, some of us stayed and picked raspberries and later beans.  I never saw the rich kids doing that.  But strawberry picking, that was different.

Everybody picked strawberries.

Posted in History

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