Berry picking was the great equalizer

June 10th, 2011 by Ken

One of my greatest memories and one that separated South Sounders from everyone else is berry picking.

Every kid growing up in the 1950’s picked berries. As soon as school was let out in June we’d head for the fields to pick strawberries. The poor kids did it because we needed the money. The rich kids did it because their parents felt it would teach them the honor of hard work.

Poor kids rode the berry bus. We’d get up at 5 a.m. walk a mile or more to the bus stop and get on the berry bus. It would make its way around Thurston County picking up kids along the route. After an hour or more of riding the bus we’d make it to the fields. The rich kids were dropped off at the field by their folks. But we all made it.

We’d hide our brown bag lunch sacks in the grass, under something, so no one would steal it, and then report to the row boss who would assign us a row.

The fields were always damp in the early morning and it was chilly, so we’d start with our jackets on. But very shortly, as the summer sun warmed us up and dried out the fields, the jackets would come off, thrown haphazardly behind us.

We’d always try to pick the biggest berries on each plant because they filled up the boxes quicker; but the row boss would always make us go back and redo a row because we left too many small berries.

We’d push the flat in front of us, making small talk with the pickers around us, harassing our friends and making eye contact with the pretty girls. Soon we would start throwing rotted berries at each other and this would go on until the row boss made us stop.

After what seemed like hours, it was time for lunch. If we were lucky enough, we found our lunch sack, ate the sandwich and drank the warm liquid, usually pop of some kind. Then it was back to work.

Each filled flat was taken to the row boss, who would either accept it, or send us back to fill it up more. If she would accept it she’d punch our card and we would pick up an empty flat and head back to start all over again.

After what seemed like hours it was time to go. The berry bus arrived and those of us using it would look forward to sitting down and the long ride home. The rich kids were picked up in the family car.

Some us worked all season, some worked for just a day or two. As the season progressed, some of us would continue on and pick raspberries and later green beans. But we all picked strawberries. It was a great equalizer.

Posted in Informational, The Real News

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