Those of us who lived in White County in the 1950s and earlier remember when the strawberry crop was an important part of our economy. I earned my first dollar by picking strawberries for Mr. McEuen at McRae. Strawberries were especially important at McRae, Judsonia, Bald Knob and Searcy, where the shipping sheds were located. But for me the most important thing about strawberries was that the school year had to be finished by the first Friday in May, so that kids would be available to pick berries. Pay was a nickel or six cents a quart, with a ticket being given for each quart. We brought our trays of quarts to the picking shed where they were inspected for quality before being packed into the wooden slat crates to be hauled to the packing sheds that afternoon, then shipped out by train to points north.
As far as I know, the picking was always done in the morning, as soon as the dew was off the leaves and was stopped about noon, due to heat. I dont know if the concern was for the berries or the workers, but I know I never objected to quitting time.
I dont remember the names of the different varieties of berries, or their attributes, but I do remember that there were advocates for particular varieties as to flavor, size, color, and ripening time.
Another thing that has struck me in reading different articles about the strawberry over the years is that in each community the individual is named who first grew the berries in the area, and several of our communities claim to be the first to grow strawberries commercially in White County. Strawberries were really a point of pride for White County. The remnant of this part of our heritage remains today in the u-pick fields at McRae, Plainview and Bald Knob.
If you could add to the memory of this aspect of our countys history, feel free to share them by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
[For additional information on the history of strawberry farming in White County, see: The History of McRae, Ark., and surrounding areas by W. Bruce Cook; In And Around The Big Rock, A History of Bald Knob, Arkansas by Lincoln Johnson and Elizabeth Short; Searcy, Arkansas, A Frontier Town Grows Up With America by Raymond L. Muncy; Thats Judsonia by W.E. Orr; White County Heritage, 1982 & 1989.]