Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Packing Houses in Hayward
I'd heard family stories that my grandmother worked for a while for Earl Warren. It turns out I'd gotten the story wrong, but the story reminded my mom to pull out a couple old letters describing where Grandma did work.
My grandmother actually worked for a fresh vegetable packer called "Farm Products Sales Company" in Hayward as a bookkeeper from the mid-twenties through 1937, leaving to help my grandfather with the family cleaning business. Farm Product Sales was run by Frank J. Cunha, and started out on C Street and Castro St. in Hayward, but moved to a new 300x50 foot warehouse (8 cars long!) at B Street and Soto (now Montgomery) Street next to the old Western Pacific Depot and the current Hayward BART station. Frank Cunha must have done quite well; he was a town trustee and mayor from 1928 to 1936, and was cited as a large local landowner in an article on the Portuguese landowners in the April 21, 1974 issue of the Hayward Daily Review. Cunha must have been a good employer; my grandmother's best friend and sister also worked in the office at times.
Farm Products Sales used the "King Tut Farms" brand, as seen in this fruit label from one of the collector label sales sites.
In 1935, FPS was packing fresh peas and tomatoes from packing houses in Hayward, Milpitas, and Oceano. They'd also opened a branch back in 1929 in the Imperial Valley to market produce "for eight large Imperial Valley growers on a 2000 acre tract", irrigated with the new Boulder Dam's water. That was going to lead to mixed fruit and vegetables, grapefruit, and early lettuce. A comment from Mr. Cunha in the Hayward Review in the 1920's highlighted how Southern California often made more on produce because they could ship the first crops of the year to eager shoppers back east, and in a bad year Northern California would get the extra business; I'd guess the Imperial Valley deal was an attempt to get more of those lucrative early season sales.
Migratory Labor in the California Market Pea Crop, an article from 1938. That article highlights how peas were a huge business in California in the 1930's, but a troublesome one because of the huge amount of fieldhands needed to harvest the crop during the very short window in the spring. That created all sorts of problems. Some years there wouldn't be enough farmworkers; other years, the neighbors would complain when the farmworkers showed up and hung around town waiting for the crop. Then there were the times when the farmworkers didn't like the pay being offered. Pea field strikes in April 1933 were referred to as the "War of 1933" in the article, and cite anger from local officials like Cunha, and how a local judge was denying county aid to any able-bodied relief workers who wasn't willing to work on the pea harvest.
I'm also curious about the ranch - whether Cunha was primarily selling produce from his own ranch, or if the ranch was just a small part of the Farm Products Sales business.
Those numbers suggest that having a few cars a day leaving Farm Product Sales's warehouse wouldn't be out of line (and in fact they were shipping 3 cars a day of corn at the end of the season in the 1920's.) The sorts of traffic density I have on my layout don't seem too unprototypical...
If anyone's got observations on the balance sheet, I'd be interested in hearing them.