Sunday, September 04, 2016

Sepia Saturday 343: Mostly Work

Work and Play are the themes for this week's Sepia Saturday. The prompt photo is of a 10-year old spinner in 1908. 

As we're invited to post 4 times on the now monthly theme, I'm starting out with a few "work" photos from my collection. The first is an old favorite and I've posted it often—my family (Irish side) on a friend's farm, harvesting potatoes. The event was one of our year's highlights; we packed a picnic, dressed in our oldest clothes and spent the day in the country, picking bucketsful of our favorite food. I can conjure up the loamy smell of the earth and the warmth of the sun on our backs. We knew winter was coming soon enough and we savored the opportunity to be outdoors unencumbered by boots, heavy coats, scarves and mittens.

I don't remember those days on the farm as work; it was sheer joy. Little contests broke out—who could finish a row the fastest; who could find the largest potato; who, the funniest looking potato. My normal interaction with these relatives usually took place at my Grandmother's house where we drank tea and chatted after mass on Sundays. Potato picking was the only annual occasion where we were outdoors, horsing around and actually having fun together. We ate egg salad sandwiches (my mother always cut the crusts off), dipped crunchy radishes in salt and ate them with dill pickles on the side. 

Continental glaciation flattened the landscape in Manitoba. Every time I fly into Winnipeg, I'm stunned by the endless open landscape a glimpse of which you can see in the photo. On and on and on and on it goes with only a trace of slight undulation now and then. 

I'm the shortest with my sister Eilleen (glasses) behind me and my mother with the dark hair to my left. The buckets and bags are full of potatoes. Child labor!

Much later, I had a garden of my own at the same family friend's farm. I could claim to have done all the work here, but old Bob, the farmer did all the hard part— prepared the land, even set the rows. I came along later and dropped in the seeds. A couple of weekends were spent weeding and other than that, Mother Nature took care of the watering. Our harvest was splendid and my boyfriend and I loaded up his little Austin convertible and delivered carloads full of fresh vegetables to St. Joseph's on Saturdays. It was a learning experience and aroused an interest in gardening in me—the quantity of food that grew out of a few pounds of seed! Little did I know this garden would be my horticultural zenith, never to be surpassed.   

Next photo is of my brother-in-law Jim, who was doing an internship at General Hospital in Winnipeg—this was real work. He's holding his infant son and taking a short break from the grueling schedule. The photo is dated April 1962, but I think the film was in the camera for a while before it was processed. More than likely, from the winter clothing on my little nephew, it was December and Jim would have been about 1/3 of the way through his internship year. In those days, the early sixties, they almost killed interns with 24 or 36-hour shifts. The interns were young and eager cheap labor; hospitals then and now unloaded a lot of scut work on them; and there was a machismo factor between the competitive interns as to how much stamina each one possessed. I remember Jim sitting at the dinner table with us on the rare occasions when he had free time during that difficult year. His stories were fascinating and his ability to endure the hardship amazed us all. He went on to "pay back" the Canadian Navy, as they financed his tuition, working in Comox, B.C. for two years; he and my sister then immigrated to the U.S. and he did his residency in radiology at USC. Next month he goes to Winnipeg to celebrate his 55 or 56th medical class reunion. 
Photo dated April 1962. 

And finally, this photo which appears on the internet from time to time. It's usually in a group under the title, "Why can't I find a job?"

Visit Sepia Saturday for more memoirs stimulated by the prompt photo. 

12 comments:

  1. Great start to the meme...the workers, and especially in farming. Yes, that chap at the end doesn't inspire anything except worry for when he might sneeze.

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  2. Yes...he could wound someone with a powerful Kachoo!

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  3. Work in different forms is still work. And even tatoo artists need to make a living!

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  4. Excellnt photographs fir the theme, especially the first one. Crunchng radishes with salt direct from Dad's garden is a childhod memory of mine too, minus the pickles however.

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    1. I've never liked radishes so maybe I should try them with salt.

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  5. It sounds and looks like potato picking was a lot of fun for you all.

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    1. Among my favorite childhood memories.

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  6. I did my share of potato digging, too -- it's hard work! But I loved it...those farming days were the best for me.

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  7. I've only harvested potatoes once in my life. We were renting an old 2-room schoolhouse that had been renovated into a home. My young son was playing outside & came running into the house saying "Come see!" What we saw were a few red potatoes he had found & dug up in the backyard. Further digging revealed several rows of them! The place also had apple trees & all kinds of blackberry bushes. Too bad someone came along & bought the place before we'd barely been there 6 months or who knows what else we might have found. I'm guessing the potatoes might have been part of an old school garden? :)

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  8. I always understood potato harvesting to be hard work, but you all look a cheeful enough bunch.cFor some reason the line from Thomas Hardy’s ‘Ruined Maid’ came to mind - the one about being tired of digging potatoes and spudding up docks. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44332

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  9. There's nothing quite like freshly-dug small potatoes cooked in their skins and served with butter.

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