Here is a picture I found of the Santa Clara Valley taken about a hundred years ago. This is the valley that Jack London saw and wrote about as he began his adventure about a dog named Buck. This is the valley that fifty years later would become my home. This is the valley that my father came to know as a nine-year old boy.
The valley spreads out between the Santa Cruz Mountains that run along the coast, and the Mount Hamilton Range to the east. It broadens to meet the waters of the San Francisco Bay. The City, as San Francisco is known, is about forty-five miles north. Oakland is about the same distance north on the east side of the Bay.
The Valley was filled with acres of apricot, plum, pear and cherry orchards. Many canneries and were built to process the fruit of the Valley. Much of the fruit were dried in the sun and packaged and sent all over the world.
They are still in a few and sheds around where the fruits were processed. Once the fruit was picked, mainly apricots and plums, they were taken to sheds where workers cut out the pits. They were then spread out on shallow wooden trays and set out in the sun to dry.
Apricot season lasted less than a month and the people who picked and worked in the drying sheds had to move on. Prune season came next. It was not as easy. To pick apricots the workers used three-legged ladders. These ladders were wobbly and felt unsafe. They were however, lightweight and easy to move among the trees.
The prunes are picked off the ground and the workers had to spend many hours bent over and picking them up by hand. The plum season also lasted a few short weeks. The workers were paid by the bucket. If I remember correctly they held about two and a half gallons. Some of the stronger pickers strapped a larger bucket to the front of their chest. That way they could stay up in the trees longer.
A large family working together could earn a generous amount of money this way. I earned enough in the summer picking apricots to pay for my tuition, textbooks, and fees my first two years at San Jose State.