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Cherry memories from Marilyn Ericksen

Editor’s note: This essay was originally printed during The Dalles’ cherry blossom season in 2007.

My cherry memories are older than Jim Goff’s memories of Dalles cherries. (Could that be possible?) As a little girl we had cherries. We had trees in the yard that were remarkable. They had two kinds of cherries on each tree. The small orchard that was on the other end of the block had different kinds of trees in the orchard.

I finally learned that the limb of Black Republicans that was grafted into a Royal Ann tree was a necessary addition to provide cross-pollination to make the fruit set. The trees in the yard were there long before our house was built and were planted before they realized cherries needed two varieties to produce successful crops.

I am talking early 1930s. Picked cherries were weighed and the pickers were paid by the pound. The lowest price I recall was ¾ of a cent per pound. The trees were huge and extension ladders were used to get the fruit in the top. There was no OSHA to limit the height of the ladder we could use, or how many rungs of the ladder were not to be used at the top. When pickers pay increased to 1-¾ cents a pound, it was great!

Orchard culture was simple. Orchards were dry land, so there was no irrigating. The trees grew without being pruned to reduce the size. After harvest, the crew went through to cut out dead wood and any broken limbs, and the orchard was left alone till next season.

Spraying was only used for specific problems and was not a regularly scheduled event.

There was no fruit fly in the area until around 1950. We always thought the start of that infestation came from the cannery lug boxes that were shipped in from other areas. What a plague that was. This was before aerial spraying.

The earliest method was to have spray in a tank pulled by a tractor. Workers walked along beside with nozzles on the end of long hoses directing the mist at the trees.

The spray was potent, so most of us had an antidote hidden from curious children, but it was essential if a hose broke or something spilled.

Of course, all this took place when there was absolutely no wind. When a breeze came up, the apparatus was put away till the next day.

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