1961 Postcard – Picking Oranges

Picking Oranges Postcard

This was a common sight when I was growing up. It was so common we never thought to take pictures to commemorate it. Farmers are at the mercy of nature, and orange growers are no different. There are various ways of fighting off freezing weather; the more modern groves had wind turbines (they look like smaller versions of the wind power generators we see today) to prevent the cold air from “settling” on the trees. Other growers used big kerosene heaters that had to be refilled to keep burning all night long. Before the environmental movement in the 70’s some growers burned tires as a cheap source of heat for their trees. Then came freezes so severe that these methods didn’t always work and the financially strapped farmers had to sell off their acreage. A great hunger for high and dry land exists in Florida, perfect for housing developments. The groves we remembered from childhood are gone now.

A few more memories – these ladders reached over 30 feet and were needed before growers started trimming the trees to keep them more compact.

The pickers slung the heavy canvas bag over their shoulder and climb to the highest branches. A picker reaches out between the branches, grasping the fruit, giving it a quick twist while tipping the fruit up to “pop” it off the branch. They were so expert and skilled their hands were almost a blur. After filling the bag, they climbed down the ladder and walked over to the orange crates to release the latch on the bottom of the bag and allow the oranges to spill into the crate. Each worker was assigned a number and given a pad of those numbers. When they started on a new crate, a number was tucked it into the metal strapping supporting the crates. Each worker was paid by the crate. I can now imagine how tiring this job was.

A truck was driven to a group of boxes and the driver lifted each one to dump the oranges into the truck bed.

The bed of the truck was hydraulic – the driver worked levers to raise it and dump the load into a waiting semi trailer. A good driver skillfully positions his truck and was able to work the lift so not an orange was spilled. It was their responsibility to pick up the fallen fruit and toss it into the trailer. The fruit seemed to magically sail up and over the sides of the trailer with only a flick of the wrist!

At the end of the day the ladders were loaded onto the truck to go back to the garage for the night. To my child’s eyes the ladders stuck out WAY in front and back of the truck.

A lawyer our family knows worked for a grove management business building these crates as a boy. Guess what he uses as bookcases to hold his legal books? Yep, he built new “vintage” orange crates for himself! Think how useful milk crates are – orange crates were just as versatile. Today a good one is pretty hard to find – and if I had known they’d be such collectors items I would have bought a few of them 30 years ago…they are quite useful and can hold a lot of STUFF.

It is cards like this that started us in the hobby of collecting postcards. They remind us of the stories and events when we have no pictures to stir our memories. See how all these remembrances just bubbled up with this one postcard?

Later, Gator!

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