Memories of Childhood – Fruit Picking

Thursday 28th January

We grew up on a council estate and in my naivety I assumed that everyone did, not so unreasonable, we had no television until I was about seven or eight and all the kids at my school came from the same estate.  But this was in the enlightened Fifties when decent homes were built for people to live in.  We lived in a three bedroom semi with a garden front and back and really it was very comfortable, if by today’s standards a bit cold in winter.  We also had a large ‘green’ right outside our front door which became a football pitch in winter where impromptu matches grew out of a couple of kids kicking a ball around.  There was definitely a great communal feeling, almost all the houses were full of young growing families, all struggling to improve their lives.  Money was tight and one of the ways of supplementing incomes was fruit picking.

For a few weeks every summer in the holidays a big flat bed lorry would arrive next to the ‘green’ and the houses would empty as young mums climbed aboard with their kids in tow.  We would be driven out to one of the local farms and the fruit picking would begin.  I say fruit picking, but often it was peas or beans as well as strawberries.  Strawberries were my favourite and Mum would give my sister and I a Tupperware tub full of sugar and we would dip the freshest and ripest strawberries in the sugar then into our greedy mouths.  We also actually helped fill a few punnets too, making sure to only pick the ripe fruit, or the biggest bean or pea pods.  The beans and peas were put into large sacks which I helped haul over to be weighed and your earnings totted up.

Lunch was a bottle of Orange Squash and sandwiches made early that morning, great wodges of cheese between doorstep bread.  In my memory it was always sunny and after lunch all the kids would play games, running around in the warm Suffolk sunshine.  Four O’Clock and we would all climb aboard the lorry and the women would compare their earnings and complain about the muddy ground or the poor crops.  But us kids loved it; I only seem to remember a few years of this and then when my sister started school my Mum got a part-time job and we didn’t need to go fruit picking anymore.