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Picking Cherries in Zora 

Jay 'Mike' Hamlin 

During the second world war, I was between about 10-14 years old, and the local one room schools would let us out about 1 O'clock to help on the farms, or pick fruit in the afternoon. 

Well, actually the cherry and peach thinning season was in the summer, but apples, and the canning season for applesauce was in Sept. The first year I picked cherries in an orchid owned by Prof Martin, on route 116 right near the one room school house in Zora. They paid 9 cents a bucket which held about 8 quarts. This meant that you drew a ladder, a bucket (which was much too big and cumbersome to take up the tree, so a smaller quart can was used, strapped to your belt, then emptied into the larger bucket.)

When I filled the bucket, I would take it to a staging area where the bucket would be poured into larger containers sitting on a flatbed trailer. Then they would punch your card, indicating credit for 9 cents! The first year it took me all morning to fill a bucket, and all afternoon to fill the second one, meaning that I earned 18 cents all day. These people around me were turning in 15 to 20 buckets a day. Fact is 20 buckets was all star status like a 20 game winner in baseball!

My problem was that I was too small to move the ladder around very fast, and I was a relocated boy from the south (not to mention that I ate half the profits) When I got home, I felt very sick from eating too many cherries, which, by the way, had been sprayed, so that's not too hard to figure out, the getting sick, that is!

The next year, one year older and maybe two inches taller, they announced that we were being paid 15 cents a bucket. By that time I was up to four buckets a day! So my daily wage skyrocketed from 18 cents to 60 cents. By the end of the war Prof Martin was paying 45 cents a bucket. By that time I hit 10 buckets a day, but I never made all star status, because I was fooling around with the girls too much! Let's face it, had it not been piece work, they would thrown my rear end out of there the first year!

During the summer, a peach orchid near there was hiring people to thin peaches. The bosses were the Carsons, one named Bub! The peaches had to be thinned before they ripened, so that meant climbing the trees and twisting off the undesired peaches and letting them fall to the ground. This was tough work and the fuzz drove me up a wall.. Starting wage was 25 cents an hour (not piece work).

Incidentally, they picked us up at from our homes in a truck and drove us to the orchids and returned us home in the evening. At the end of the week they held a pay day, and they gave me 5 cents an hour, as they didn't think too much of my work, which was probably justifiable, considering my expertise (or lack of thereof) in that field, although I considered that Carson family a bunch of crooks for doing that. So obviously that ended my career at that orchid.

During my freshman year at Gettysburg College(1949), I needed cash, so I got a job at a canning factory in Ortanna, canning applesauce (Musselman’s Lucky Leaf). This was a four week job and paid 77 cents an hour; I was on the night shift 4-12 midnight. I loaded these number ten cans (a gallon) of applesauce onto the box cars to be shipped to grocers all over the country. I was going to class 8-2, then running cross country till 3:30 then would hustle over to Ortanna and work till midnight.

Well, as one can possibly surmise, I didn't last very long under that arduous schedule, and broke down with a bad flu bug and sore throat, thus ending, once and for all my career in the apple, peach and cherry business! The real message here is that when I say we had it tough in the old days, I wasn't exaggerating.

Read other articles by Jay

Have your own memories of Summer time jobs  in Emmitsburg?  
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net