And it’s not even the season… except that I was recently given a pint of freshly-picked ones by someone who informed me that there are new cultivars that grow through summer, or at least through much of it. Huh. News to me. I’ve been walking snootily past strawberry displays at the farmers’ markets for ages, assuming they’re imports from re-sellers. And even if I’d known about the all-summer variety I’m pretty sure I’d have given them a miss, assuming hybrids taste yucky.
But the gift strawberries were in no way yucky. And they went very well with ice-cream, just like the real kind. If anything, these were more flavourful than the early varities, which I’ve noticed in recent years have been losing ‘something’.
But that’s not what’s on my mind, strawberry-wise.
It’s picking them. My first serious job. Aside from babysitting and selling Sarah Coventry Jewellery, Avon and Regal Gift Cards door to door. (Actually, Sarah Coventry was sold at ‘parties’. Of which I had one, my mother being my ‘party host’ and whose responsibility it therefore was to invite a rec room full of friends. The host received a complimentary Sarah Coventry brooch or scarf holder or mood ring… Anyway, can’t remember if/what I sold. It was such a sad, sad thing for a child to experience, it effectively ended my whole Sarah Coventry career.)
My strawberry picking career lasted much longer. Almost a whole strawberry season, as I recall. (Please note the season was much shorter then; the people who invented the hybrids had not yet been born.)
The best part was being picked up in a flat-bed truck at the corner of Bunting and Scott at something like 5:30 in the morning. Not only was it great riding in the back of a truck through the city, but none of my friends were up to see how nerdish I was, grinning madly, wind in my face, the sense of berry-fueled adventure coursing through my veins…
The worst part was the rash I got from eating more strawberries than I picked.
When I got my paycheque (I can’t believe I didn’t owe them money), I thought I’d made it, that it just didn’t get any better than this. I had a paycheque for god’s sake. With my name on it.) A picture exists of me holding this cheque. I’m wearing a tie-dye tee-shirt, cut offs and a blue paisley scarf over my hair (tied almost pirate style, but not quite) the way we did in the 70’s when we weren’t embroidering flowers and peace symbols on our jeans.
There’s a good chance I spent it on a Gordon Lightfoot album, incense and a pair of huaraches.
The above memory, courtesy of a post by Gwen Tuinman about her summer job picking tobacco leaves. (I win! You can’t eat tobacco leaves.)
Any other summer jobs of yore out there? Consider the baton passed…
15 thoughts on “strawberries on my mind”
Loved this! (I caught and sold frogs as bait to the fishermen – Dad and our neighbours – at the cottage. 25 cents a piece! Does that count?)
Are you kidding?? Of course it counts! You might actually be the winner. You caught and sold frogs?? Have you written about this, Susan? If so, please send a link. If not, please go find a pen… asap. (:
I have not yet written about that, but I do have a photo of me from the time. Thanks, Carin, for the inspiration. (And Dennis said that Scott and Bunting were very close to where he lived … but he never picked strawberries.)
He was probably still asleep when the truck went by. (;
Carin, I loved reading this. And you do win. I would strongly advise against eating tobacco leaves! I also picked strawberries for a summer job in grade 7. A school bus picked up kids enroute to the farm. Brutal work. We must cross paths one day. I always enjoy your posts:)
Brutal? Hmm. I think you and I may have had different approaches to the picking. I was more concerned about getting an even tan and eating my weight in them. (;
But I remember some of the other, really serious pickers, and it did look ‘brutal’. Grape-picking too. Hard work. So happy to have discovered your blog too, Gwen!
Oh my, huaraches! I wore out several pair. Gwen and Carin, I enjoyed both your stories, and I picked up the baton: http://www.commatology.com/2014/08/26/summer-jobs-1970-something/
Yay! Cheers, brave baton picker upper! I loved your version of tobacco and strawberries…
My goodness, you do make me laugh out loud. Does it count that after Gr. 13 I worked at Manufactures’ Life (Manulife) on Bloor St. (a downtown street that screamed sophistication for this Scarborough girl in 1966). I lied to personnel, telling them I intended to stay after the summer. I trained on the main floor, one of hundreds of desks row on row on row. I never once understood my job, which had something to do with paying agents commissions. I had to writer letters, and I cringe to think of the garbled missives I mailed out. I’m sure more than one agent’s family did without groceries over my confused state. The best part was the magical tubes of inter-departmental mail-outs that were vacuumed up, and magical transformed onto mail carts, and delivered within minutes (old time email). I had a crush on the mail guy, and he broke all the rules by sending me his hand-written poems via the mail cart – much more important to me at the time than straightening out the agents’ commissions.
Oh, Mary, you make ME laugh. Your story reminds me of an equally bewildering job I once had in an actuarial firm. I had NO CLUE what anyone, most of all me, was doing. Years later I looked up ‘actuary’ and that’s how I came to know where I’d been…
As for the mail guy. That must have been the job to have. Whatever the company, everyone has a crush on the mail guy.
Thank you for picking up the baton! I love this!
I’m impressed you got an actual paycheque. I picked strawberries, raspberries, currants, sour cherries, sweet cherries, peaches, plums. I think in that order. We were always paid cash at the end of the day.
Well, that only makes sense, doesn’t it. I wonder now why they bothered with cheques… maybe to trace payments so no one could complain that they hadn’t been paid? You were perhaps a more trustworthy bunch out your way…
Also… I can’t imagine picking currents. Oh how tedious. I can barely keep up enough enthusiasm to pick enough for my breakfast.
More likely we were *less* trustworthy. The farmer was never sure we’d show up again the next day.