Memories of Whitney’s Custom Cannery, Circa 1954-56

By Patti (“The Ransom girl” ) Waitman-Ingebretsen, Multnomah Village

My family moved to Maplewood in 1950 and our ¼ acre property allowed for a very large garden. My father, raised on a farm in Corvallis, knew all about gardening and raising chickens. We children considered ourselves “slave labor”. To make things more interesting, he worked a few short miles and minutes away in Multnomah and he was home for lunch every day. Imagine kids ready to sleep in and then lollygag around the rest of the day. Now imagine father rousting the “kid laborers” before he headed off to work. We were given our assignments and you can darn well betcha he would be checking when he arrived for lunch. The other problem occurred when his work day ended at 3:30 or 4 pm. That meant he was back again to see how his work assignments were coming along. We tried various tricks, none of which worked very well. A person could lounge under a tree and read a book most the afternoon and then throw some raspberries into the bottom of a pan and claim that’s all there were. Of course, it never worked and by golly the second picking was much more bountiful. It was not until I was a parent myself did I realize the strategy utilized by father. He kept us busy and he knew where we were and what we were doing. We were not at loose ends and certainly too busy to get into much trouble. He was actually a very good role model and we developed a strong work ethic which has now been handed down to yet another generation.

Which leads me to managing the produce. Father would gather the harvest and we kids and then to Whitney’s Custom Cannery for the day. He would drop us off with instructions and of course, that included watch your little brother. I have no recollection if he spoke directly with Mrs. Whitney or not but he was gone and we were there. As I recall, we canned beans, tomatoes, plums and lots and lots of corn. We followed the processes set out for the grownup canners and went through the various steps for each vegetable or fruit that was canned. I do not recall getting a lot of help or direction nor do I think they were “baby sitting” us but perhaps I just didn’t notice. Keeping brother involved and engaged was another matter. Once we had the produce prepared and everything into the cans, we filled with the right amount of water, then onto the conveyor belt to begin processing. A specific number was assigned for each of our family’s canning efforts and eventually stamped on the top of every can. Just as we were completing our tasks, father would appear to give us the ride home. At a later date, he would return to pick up our canned goods and at some point, paid Mrs. Whitney for the canning process. By the end of summer, we were pro’s at Whitney’s but those were very long days. It was very nice, however, to be sent to the storage area to grab whatever was needed for a meal and there stacked very neatly were rows and rows of tin cans, literally fruits of our labor.

Whitney’s is no more but those memories and skills learned have stayed with us over time. We get a kick out of entering the Old Market Pub and seeing the Whitney’s signs and phone number prominently displayed. That old concrete floor is still just as hard as it was back in the day. Some things never change.

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1 Response to Memories of Whitney’s Custom Cannery, Circa 1954-56

  1. Pingback: July 2016 News | Garden Home History Project

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