Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Sixty Millions of Prunes Still on the Floors of Warehouses"

So it wasn't just the Great Depression that was making life difficult for prune growers; the problems mentioned last time in 1931-1932 were problems for the industry even back in 1927, as the San Jose News commented on at length on Thursday, July 21, 1927.

In a front page editorial on July 21, 1927, the San Jose News highlighted the awful figures: Four hundred million pounds of prunes on California trees for the upcoming season. Sixty million pounds of prunes still on the floors of the warehouses. Only two hundred and sixty million pounds of prunes sold the previous years.

"It can be seen by anyone that if 460,000,000 pounds of prunes are dumped on a market which is capable of absorbing only about half that amount, ruinous prices are going to be the result. There is no element of chance, of luck. It is dead certainty."

Their plan: get all the growers and packers together into a single organization that could control most of the acreage. The new California Prune Producers concept had the approval of ninety-five percent of the packers, and half of the growers (all already members of Sunsweet). But that still meant that half the growers weren't ready to sign a contract with the new organization.

So, in late July, meetings and personal pleadings took over. Standard Oil lent ten crack salesmen to the Prune Producers for the remainder of the drive for contracts on prune acreage. The president of the Lawrence Terminal Co. of Oakland was sending staff to help with the drive. Santa Rosa's business men were pleading with the local growers.

In San Jose, mass-meetings were planned that evening at the Union Grammar School, Los Gatos Town Hall, and Evergreen grammar school. Contracts were being offered at all the packing houses:
  • California Packing Corporation at San Fernando and Bush
  • Rosenberg Brothers on Railroad Ave. in Santa Clara
  • Richmond Chase at 64 West Santa Clara Street in San Jose
  • Guggenheim & Co at Julian and Pleasant St.
  • Interrieden Company at 200 Ryland St.
  • O. A. Harlan & Co. at Fourth and Margaret
  • Libby McNeil and Libby at Fourth and Lewis
  • Pacific Coast Canners at Third and Keyes

The San Jose News closed with a quote from the manager of Hart's Department Store: "There is a grave necessity that something be done to save the prune industry, and that is something before us in this co-operative campaign. It is the most important task before San Jose now."

And if they thought the situation in 1927 was bad, it'll be much worse in just four years.

Also in the news: $80,000 of opium seized from a steamship docking at San Francisco. Aimee Semple McPherson rushes home to Los Angeles because of an "odd shortage of funds" at Angelus Temple, and local blacksmith Russell P. Kenyon dies the day before he inherits a half million dollars. Meanwhile, Union Furniture Co at 353 South First Street offers an entire bedroom set for $49.75, or $1.00 a week, as well as "smart new lamps" and a "General Electric Midget Radio."

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