Sunday, December 21, 2008

Henry Pratt's Memories XI

Marketing Fruit:
"Boats and fruit culture were interdependent then. When my oldest brother was on his way to the train to return to M.A.C. for his Junior year (1905) he remarked that he had driven a load of fruit to the boat docks in Benton Harbor every day, except Saturday, since he got home in June".
The Pratts did most of their marketing through a commission merchant at the Chicago market. He would pay freight, transport and then deduct these plus a 10% commission. The remainder would be sent back to W.M.Pratt.
"Many growers, however, would sell their fruit to agents of the commission house before they reached the boat docks. These agents would meet the wagons coming towards the docks and make their offers".
The fruit trade started informally when loads of fruit were sold on the streets usually around Territorial Road and Sixth Street in Benton Harbor. With the advent of trucks in the 1920's more space and organization was needed and the Benton Harbor Fruit Market was born. It now handles about $10,000,000 worth of fruit and produce a year.
After the Pratts moved to Watervliet in 1912 all their fruit was sent to the docks in Benton Harbor on the Inter-urban. The Inter-urban, an electric railway, had lines all over southern Michigan. They could run one car or a train of cars. They were noisy, uncomfortable and ugly but their saving grace was convenience. They ran almost every hour, had low fares and had both freight and passenger cars. However the improvemnt of the automobile and the introduction of trucks during the 20' s soon put them out of business.
My memories: During the 30's we were in the fruit business. I mean WE, Allen, Genevieve, Jim, Dick and John.  We had a big apple orchard, a strawberry patch and 5 acres of red raspberries. Mother was the raspberry Boss and Dick and I were the indentured pickers (John was too young to be of much help). During  the season it was up every morning at dawn and out to the raspberry patch (located over by today's airport), pick and pack all the berries that were ripe, put the crates in the back of the 1936 taxi-model Plymouth and off to the Benton Harbor market to wait for the commission-agent buyers to inspect our berries and make a bid of so much a crate. When a deal was made we drove over to the agent's dock and unloaded and headed back to Watervliet to do the same thing over again the next day. Years afterwards Dick and I agreed that one of the happiest days of our lives was when Dad plowed under the raspberries.
The Inter-urban connecting  Watevliet to Benton Harbor ran right out in front of our Paw Paw Avenue home in the middle of Phil Cutler's farm aong what is now Parsons Avenue. It was an adventure to ride for a kid. (emailed July 13)

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