Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pruning Crews, and Finding Photos on Facebook

Pruning crew, Santa Clara County?

If you listen for the stories of growing up in the Santa Clara Valley, you hear a lot from local kids about summers spent "picking prunes" - picking the ripe fruit off the ground. It's usually spoken of both as an awful job (because of the sticky fruit and constant stooping) and as a first taste of independence and cash. But those weren't the only jobs in the orchard. In his oral history, my great-uncle told how his father made extra money during the winters by pruning other folks' orchards.

A couple weeks back, one of the local history groups on Facebook posted this photo of "prune pickers". But these aren't prune pickers. They're too old, they don't have buckets for the crops, they're warmly dressed... and they're carrying pruning shears. This gang of men are a pruning crew off to shape the trees for a better crop in spring. I don't know if they're Anglo, Portuguese, Italian, or Croatian, but some of them were probably saving for their own orchards, and some might be helping out at someone else's orchard.

Facebook history groups like this seem to be the current rage this year; San Jose Memories has had a great mix of photos, and there's a good half a dozen railroad sites posting random photos. They're great way to attract a wide audience that might not visit a focused history site. Still, I wish there were easier ways to attach the source of photos both for credit and tracking down additional details.

[No idea about where this photo came from, but it's way too good to share. Let me know if you've seen this on a museum's website.]


  1. The earliest (and highest quality) version of this image I've found is here: But I'm not sure if that's the ultimate source. The unattributed posts on Facebook are a problem, as I've had my own scans and photos reposted time and time again, often with a watermark or copyright cut off as well. It's going to make history tougher in the long run, as more people can post images with inaccurate data that instantly becomes gospel. On the other hand, many of the images posted are photos or documents that may never have seen the light of day otherwise. It's a mixed bag.

  2. I tracked down the creator of back in 2014. She said the photo is her grandfather, Mario Marchese. Mario lived in San Jose and worked for the Navelit company "Mario was just a worker, but I think he might have been the head of a small group of immigrant workers. No, they are not relatives, just fellow immigrants come to work in the fields."

    San Jose phone books from 1917 - 1927 shows that Mario lived at 827 Palm St. in San Jose with his wife Minnie. He lists his occupation as laborer and nurseryman.