Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Harvest Time in the Valley

Berry Industry Artifacts

The time of year has come when all the vines we watched being prepared for the new season have filled themselves to capacity with their delicious berries. As I drive along I watch the crews tending the parallel lines of berry crops while the unusual machines, standing tall, work their way down the rows. Every once in a while I see a plastic container off to the side of the road with a batch of crushed berries nearby, their flavour and taste lingering in the air.

The Chilliwack Museum has a few items directly related to the modern harvesting of berry crops but not many. In 1996 a wooden raspberry crate from the East Chilliwack Co-op was brought to us. This organization started in 1947 with 23 growers investing $973.00 to begin the “pool marketing” of raspberries.

Another wonderful donation was made in 1995 when a box opener was brought in to us. The opener, resembling a hatchet and crowbar, was used by Roy Cunningham, Station Agent for the C.N.R. to open and close shipping crates. During the 1920s when Chilliwack was shipping a large amount of fruit to the prairies there was a shed, on the spur-line beside the station that was used to store fruit crates. All the farmers brought their fruit there, mostly raspberries and strawberries. Mr. Cunningham would check on the fruit on a regular basis to see ensure that fruit was actually in the cases and that it had not spoiled. In the fall farmers shipped prunes, pears and apples.

It takes time to build collections. After all, it does not often occur that a collection of objects can be obtained from one place to represent an industry. Maybe one day, from these humble beginnings, we will have a collection that will do historical justice to this thriving industry.

Image: Box Opener used by C.N.R. agent Roy Cunningham.

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