Valley of Heart’s Delight was the nickname the local promoters liked to use for the Santa Clara Valley. Now it is known as Silicon Valley. Among the towns here are San Jose, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Palo Alto. They were separate towns when we first moved here in the 1950’s, separated by two lane country roads and miles of orchards and dairies in between. Now the towns have merged into each other and only the locals can tell them apart. The wonderful orchards trees that used to thrive here have been bulldozed and burned to cinders over the years to make way for house orchards.
The valley was once filled with acres of apricots and plums and pears and cherries. Many well-known wineries were also established here, Paul Masson, Almaden are just two of them. Canneries and packing houses were built to process the bounty of the Valley. Much of the fruit were dried in the sun, then packaged and sent all over the world.
My stepfather, John Olivas and many of his relatives made the trip north each year from Ventura County to pick the crops. Other families with names like Chavez, Gonzalez, Govea, made the trip as well. This season was no exception.
It did not take long to pack our things into the old wagon. Some of the families had automobiles but the roads were so bad that they did not move much faster than a horse-drawn wagon.
Riding on the wagon seemed fun at first, however, those old rigs had no springs and we felt every bounce and rock and rut along the way. Soon everyone was jumping off and taking to walking.
It took us close to two weeks to make the trip north. John had cousins that lived in Santa Clara near the old mission. A lot of the family was already there by the time we arrived. It was like a family reunion. Everybody was happy to see that we arrived safely. The grown-ups put on a big feed for us. Just like the horses, we were well watered and fed.
There was lots of singing and dancing going on into the dark hours of that first night. Of course mama made us go to sleep early. We were too excited so the sleeping didn’t come until much later. By we, I mean Frank and Henry, and myself. My brother Bobby was grown up now and had his own place. He stayed behind and continued working for the People’s Lumber Company back in Oxnard.
My sisters Virginia and Natalia did not want to make the trip so they also stayed in Oxnard.
John’s family knew some people and we got work picking apricots in an orchard nearby. It took us half a day to get settled over there. John set up a couple of tents for the family. He even brought our kitchen stove for cooking. It was exciting for me to cook outside and, eat under the trees and to sleep in the tents. Mama was not too happy to be there, I could tell. She did a lot of crying when she thought nobody was looking.
At seven in the morning the women would go to the shed. I would go with her and stood at the end of my mama’s table. John and my brothers went into the orchards to pick the fruit. My mama’s job was to remove the pits from the apricots. I was helping my mama by staying in sight and not giving her anything to worry about.