For a series of posts, I have settled on all the ways I have made money from the time I was 11. The more I think about how varied has been my work history, the more stories about it come to mind. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much of my life was spent trying to think up ways to earn money. I never had easy access to it, so I had to find enterprising ways to acquire it.
Which brings us to strawberry picking. When I was a kid in Oregon in the 1950’s, kids were encouraged to help pick crops for pay. Everyone I knew at Camp Namanu had tried their hand at it, and some told me they had even paid for camp with their earnings. This sounded promising. I liked strawberries, didn’t I?
To get to the fields, kids met a bus at 5 in the morning. That should have been enough of a disincentive to begin with. But then there was the actual work. Strawberry picking is done on the ground along ENDLESS rows that you are assigned. You fill flat containers to the top with berries, take the container to a central station to be weighed, get another container and return to your row to start again. It is hot and dirty work. In the case of the field I worked, the rows had already been picked over, so the berries weren’t abundant. And in this field, you had to remove the stem end before putting it in the container, ensuring that yours fingers were stained red.
I worked hard for hours and earned almost no money. I was hot, tired, thirsty and cranky. I didn’t go back. And I didn’t jump at the offer later that summer to pick beans. Even with the promise that “you get to do it standing up!”