Hand peeling tomatoes at Defender Packing Co. as it
was still being done in 1974.
The tomatoes were
hand peeled by the women into 16 quart buckets, and
after the buckets of tomatoes were dumped onto the
filling table, a brass token with "1 BUC"
on it was dropped into the bucket. The women
collected the tokens all week, and could trade them
up to the 25, 5O and 100 units, but could not cash
them in until Saturday. My aunt Nellie Adams, who
also taught math in school, was in charge of the
tokens and counted them with the workers and gave
them their cash for the tokens on Saturdays. In the
20's the women were being paid 3 cents per
bucket, which had moved up to 20 cents per bucket
by World War II days. During the early 40's
another system of recording the number of buckets
peeled was put in use, and these tokens were no
longer used, but were stored in ,two big boxes in
my grandparents attic.
[Below] Bucket tokens used by Defender Packing Co.
The hand peeling of
tomatoes ended in 1977, after which all tomatoes
were mechanically harvested in the fields and were
peeled by a lye peeling process in the plant. This
meant enormous changes in the handling of the
tomatoes, and it translated in to being able to
harvest and can our tomatoes with 35 to 40 workers
when before we had needed up to 150 workers to do
the same operation ion by hand. TIMES HAVE CHANGED!
[Charles B. Adams, Jr. 12/25/99]