Prune picker

Prune picker is a Depression Era term for a native Californian. It was not a complement. In the thirties when I was a boy there were times that I was the only prune picker in a group. Everyone else had been born somewhere else.

My posts are placed down the left column. Personal data is placed in the right column along with a list of blogs I check and a listing of my past posts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Depression era memories of the old prune picker.

A prune picker blog reader has asked me about my memories of California during the depression era.
I was five to fifteen during this period. 1930 to 1940. I remember that money was very scarce. I could go shopping with a nickel. My crop work consisted of grape picking, walnut picking, and orange picking. My father planted a few acres of corn. I suckered, picked and sold corn. It was Golden Bantam and sold for 25 cents per dozen ears. At times my meals came from the apricot, peach, and orange orchards.

I can remember in the sixth grade that I did not have a lunch to take to school. While my classmates ate their lunches I would go around the corner and pretend that I was going home for lunch. I would come back when lunch was over.

I slept under bushes for one night. My siblings put me up a lot.

I was placed in boys homes twice. At age 7 and age 13.

In junior high school I had a job picking up trash after each school day. My pay was a little more than $5 per month. I remember picking up a check at the Education Office across town.

Starting at around age 12 I washed dishes in a downtown restaurant, the U & I. I worked a couple of hours at noon and in  the evening. I was paid with my meals and $15 per month. I remember that it calculated out 17 cents per hour. However I ate good. I supported myself from this time, age 14. I rented a room for $4 a month. My closet was nails in the wall.
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There were two large families from Oklahoma in our neighborhood. One was across the alley from us. My oldest brother married the oldest girl from across the alley. So at least one prune picker married an Okie! My folks had arrived in California from Kansas/Kentucky around 1907. All of my siblings except my oldest sister were born in California. We were a bunch of prune pickers.

I read the Grapes of Wrath. I had a sister who lived near Weedpatch, which was a location in the book. On a visit I saw the government camp that the Joads lived in. This is the camp where the Joads saw a flush toilet for the first time.

Pomona was not a bad place to grow up. There is a blog that celebrates that fact.


3 comments:

  1. Daddy managed to give his own kids a much easier life. All of us owe our parents more than we know.

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  2. I sure do love hearing your life stories. You've definitely made the best of it all.

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  3. Dear Mr. Chuck,
    Thank you so much for answering my questions about California during the depression. Your reply made my day! I am a big fan of history but know little of the personal side of that era. I also read "The Grapes of Wrath" and that, coupled with some old movies and lots of episodes of "The Waltons", is where I have gotten my information of the sacrifice required during those years.
    On one hand, as I read about your young life during that time, it made me sad to think of your struggles. There must have been many times that you were lonely and afraid. Not to mention hungry. But at the same time, without those difficulties you might not have grown into the person you are now. I think that children truly do learn by example and you had a shining example of what you DIDN'T want your life to be like. I am sure that was a driving force as you grew into a man and especially when you had a family of your own. Do you ever look at your grand/great-grand children and think about them being on their own at 14? I can only imagine what that must have been like.
    Thanks again for the information and education. You seem to be doing pretty well now surrounded by your friends and beautiful family. Maybe that is your reward for such a hard start! Take care!
    Sincerely,
    A.B.

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