Saturday, December 4, 2010

It might be easier to list who *wasn't* swallowed up by Sunsweet

After all the comments this week about whether Silicon Valley is getting a little too frothy with the various company buyouts, offers, and alliances, at least we know things weren't like that in the old days, right?

Uh... maybe not.

Sunsweet, also known as the California Prune and Apricot Growers co-operative, was obviously a popular group in the Santa Clara Valley. The co-op provided fruit dryers and packing houses for member farmers, provided marketing support for the brand, and as a result raised the prices that farmers could get for their crop. Several of the packing houses I've modeled in the San Jose area were either Sunsweet facilities or associated with the group. However, this history of Santa Clara County from around 1920 (via shows just how wide the organization's roots ran.

Here's the list of Sunsweet facilities in 1922:

"The California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc., have organized growers', packing and warehouse associations with plants in Santa Clara County as follows:

  • Plant No. 1, Campbell (building still standing.)
  • No. 2, Morgan Hill;
  • No. 3, Gilroy;
  • No. 4, San Jose, Fourth and Lewis streets (south side of town along the old 4th Street portion of the line to San Jose.)
  • No. 6, San Jose ;
  • No. 7, Vasona, Los Gatos ; (hmmm... wonder where this was?)
  • No. 8, Mountain View ;
  • No. 10, San Jose ;
  • No. 11, San lose, Cinnebar and Senter streets; (Rose Garden neighborhood. The railroad tracks go down what used to be Senter Ave. )
  • No. 13, Los Gatos;
  • No. 14, Lincoln Avenue, San Jose. (north of Parkmoor Ave., no longer standing.)

"They also have plants in various sections of the state, and the list extended to forty in 1921. The following packers of the county are affiliated with the association:

  • Plant No. 14, W. Chilton & Co., San Jose (don't know if that's the warehouse on Ryland I'm modeling)
  • No. 15, J. B. Inderrieden Co., San Jose; (another name we've seen on the warehouses near the Market St. Station)
  • No. 16, Pacific Fruit Products Co., San Jose; (perhaps what became Abinante and Nola in the 1930's on San Carlos St. next to the Los Gatos branch)
  • No. 17, Warren Dried Fruit Co., San Jose; (another name on the warehouses near the Market Street Station
  • No. 22, Geo. E. Hyde & Co., Campbell; (on my Vasona Branch layout, buildings still existing)
  • No. 37, Warren E. Hyde, S. E. Johnson, Cupertino;
  • No. 38, West Side Fruit Growers' Association, Cupertino.

"In addition to the above, there will be established at numerous points in the state receiving stations. Growers' Packing and Warehousing Association, Inc., has already negotiated the purchase of several properties necessary for these plants. "

None of these plants were particularly tiny, and they were scattered all across the Santa Clara Valley. For a model railroader, a huge number of medium-sized industries is heaven because it means I'll have lots of switching locations for the local freight trains. This Sanborn map (showing the Lincoln Ave. Plant #14) shows a small building, but photos show it as a three story high barn-like structure with a huge facade on Lincoln Ave.

Don't think for a moment that the crazy dot-com boom was a one time occurrence in Silicon Valley. The various alliances, conglomerates, and mergers in the fruit canning and packing businesses in the teens and twenties seem very familiar.

A dried fruit packer such as Sunsweet may not seem like they've got much to do other than get the dried fruit from the farmers. However, check out their guidelines to the member fruit dryers to see what's needed so that the dried California apricots you buy at the store are high quality.

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