When I was just ready to start the first grade, I went prune picking for the
first time. G'pa Gurbrod had a prune orchard out behind his house, and he
paid 10 cents a box. I picked 10 boxes in one day and thought I was a
millionaire! It wasn't so glamorous later-- picking prices when down and
down. We used to stay with Aunt Alice and Uncle Ed (did we ever get
homesick-- we used to wash the dishes and watch Uncle Ed playing with the
current baby and weep into the dishwater! Uncle Ed was never allowed to
touch the baby until he washed up, either!).
But when I think prune picking,
I think of the Red and White Store (our grocery store) because we always got
new blue jeans to go prune picking. And the very first hour out under
those trees we would crush and overripe prune into the knees of those jeans,
and then, scrambling on our knees, we would accumulate prune-mud until we
smelled of new blue jeans and dead prunes. And of course the inevitable
would happen-- the nasty yellowjacket in the decaying prune. Nothing to do
but put mud on it and hope we wouldn't expire!
Best time of the day was heading back to the house and knowing Aunt Alice
and here Mom, Great-Aunt Rose (after whome I was also named!) would have
made schwest-kuchen-- a coffee bread made with prunes on top. Heaven!!
Mr George Downs owned and operated the Red and White Store. It was where [?]
is now. The big long counter was on the south side of the building. The
customer would go up and hand the grocery list to the clerk and the clerk
would busily accumulate all the things for you. No such things as the
customer handling the goods ahead of time! We kids went to the store very
seldom, and I doubt if the folks went more than once a week, if that. It
would all be put on credit and at the end of the farm year, when Daddy has
his money from the Grain Company, he would settle the whole bill. And Mr.
Downs would present him with a box of candy and what a feast that was!
Edythe Rhodes was a clerk for Mr. Downs, always so friendly and patient with
the kids. M. Downs had a beautiful voice, sand in the Methodist Choir and
was much in demand as soloist at funerals. Later the Red and White store was
sold to Bill Wallace, another general grocer. That continued into my teens,
but unfortunately, he was was a Christian Scientist and fell very ill one
day. True to his faith, he expired without medical attention. See his
grave at Green Crest almost every year.