The prompt this week for the Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop is "My first job..."
We had moved to a valley in Northwest Oregon the summer before, but that summer my brother and I had helped herd the sheep our Dad bought, and it wasn't for pay and pay wasn't expected. Farm kids were expected to help their family with the chores.
I was now finishing out first year at the little two-room school, and I began hearing how kids earned their own money by picking strawberries in the summer. The father of one of the girls at the school had strawberry fields and needed pickers. Even though I was only eight years old and would be turning nine later in the year, I was allowed to pick. I was very excited about being able to earn some money.
Every morning about 6:00 a.m. I stood waiting alongside the road with my lunch pail waiting for the farmer or his wife to come by in their truck to get me. I just hopped in the back of the pickup bed, sat down next to other children and had a bumpy ride on the gravel roads leading to the strawberry farm. It was fun, because it was a new experience and I didn't quite know what to expect.
The wages were not very much, compared to now, but each day I would figure out how much money I would get paid at the end of the season. The wages then were 35 cents per carrier. A carrier contained six quart-size boxes.
The strawberry farm where I picked had two different kinds of strawberries, Marshalls and Hoods. I personally liked the taste of the Marshalls, because they were much sweeter. The Hoods ripened a little later than the Marshalls, so I had a longer picking season.
The row boss made sure that the pickers kept on task and picked a clean row. Picking a clean row meant to not miss any berries and to pick off any rotten berries and toss them on the ground behind you. I especially didn't care for this last part, because if we had a particularly rainy June, the berries would begin to rot and mold and become quite squishy! If these bad berries were left on the vines, they would touch good berries and cause them to get moldy too.
We picked until noon, ate our lunches and then about three in the afternoon were picked by our parents or a neighbor. We didn't pick every day, because sometimes it was too rainy to pick, and at other times we needed to wait for berries to ripen a few days.
Although picking strawberries was hard on my back, it was in the strawberry fields where I first started developing work ethics. I also came to appreciate the work ethics of the families of migrant workers, many of whom are extremely fast pickers!
I found a wonderful article titled Historic Marshall Strawberries at Green Gardening with Ann Lovejoy.