Thursday, April 18, 2013

Life in a Packing Plant is Mighty Sweet

Bah. Those girls in the packing plant got everything. Rides to and from work. Fine meals in the cafeteria. And now George Frank & Co. is giving them music?

From the October 16, 1902 San Jose Evening News:

Prune Packers Listen to Music
In their desperation over lack of sufficient number of women and girls to pack the prune crop, the packers of the Santa Clara Valley are willing to make any reasonable concession.
The packing-house girl is becoming an autocrat.
More than 1000 girls are wanted in the various packing houses.
All kinds of inducements have been offered and the bidding has become so brisk for help that some of the packing houses are on the verge of being turned into drawing-rooms.
To the firm of George Frank & Co. is due the palm in this respect.
Besides a free ride to and from work with pay and long terms of employment, it is advertising that "an orchestra plays popular music at intervals during the day."
This installation of music in the packing-house is likely to cause a stampede from the other places.
In the packing houses the girls now earn from $1 to $2 a day.
Don't tell me those modern day Silicon Valley programmers are spoiled once you hear about the orchestras. Orchestras!

I haven't done much research on the "orchestral" George Frank packing house, for the business pre-dates my layout by quite a bit. George Frank and Company turns up around 1900, at a plant out on the "West Side", as we used to refer to Cupertino around these parts. Frank's packing house shows up in the San Francisco Call as a drop-off location for prunes being sold through the California Cured Fruit Association in 1900. Later city directories (1904, 1907) put the plant at "Meridian Road at the narrow gauge" and "Meridian at Paula", or in modern terms roughly at Meridian and 280. It only seems appropriate that the orchestras were playing in a packing house on the roads leading to beautiful Willow Glen.

By the late 'teen's, Frank appeared ready for a change; he started developing a plant in Sacramento at 12th and B (billed as "Smith Frank Packing"). He sold his holdings in San Jose in 1919 and 1920, with the dried fruit packing plant going to Sunsweet (as they opened their own packing plants), and the cannery going to George N. Herbert (after he'd sold his packing plant on Lincoln Ave. off to Sunsweet). Herbert, you might remember, hosted Edith Daley's cannery visit in July 1919, after which the Evening News retired the use of the exclamation point in news articles.

If you want to do your own browsing for San Jose Evening News stories, go over to the Google News Archive and specify the "San Jose Evening News" or "San Jose News" as the source. Pre-1924 issues are billed as The Evening News, and post-1923 issues get grouped by Google either as the San Jose Evening News or San Jose News. In a nice coincidence, one of my neighbors is the son of the Evening News's editor.

Go check out the old papers, and share any fun articles you find. We're lucky the Evening News is available online, both because they've billed themselves in editorials as "the voice of the growers" and because they paid Edith Daley's salary.

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