My mom Lizzette Saddleman organized our trips. This one was to the United States, to pick hops. A big yellow school bus would arrive at Quilchena and pick up men, women and children, then on to Upper Nicola.

From there, the bus driver would drive across the border.

I was only about six, but I remember it clearly.

When the bus arrived at the camp, where we would be living for the hop picking season, everyone unloaded their little suitcases. Everyone travelled light. Then we were given cabin keys.

In the centre of the big yard I remember there was a water fountain, with a public shower futher down.

Early the next morning, the foreman would call everyone, then he would explain what had to be done.

My mom, her friends Patty Boston,  Rosie Boston, Alice Swakum, and other women would gather around the water fountain to visit. Then a bus would arrive to take the pickers to the hop yards.

Hops are green in colour, very sticky and very light, like feathers.

My dad Billy McLeod was hired on to work in the hop sheds with other men.

My grandmother, who was in her 60’s at least, was also a picker.

A man would go around to the pickers to weigh their sacks, then punch their tickets with the weight. The pickers were paid at the end of the week.

I met other little children from different parts of the country. One little girl had a native wool sweater, with native designs on it. I had never seen a sweater like that.

Later, my mom found out, the little girl and her family came from Alaska.

We became very good friends. She didn’t speak English, but we got by.

Other children would join us. We had a special place by the water fountain where we played with our homemade dolls, one little girl had a doll that had a black face.

The girl herself had black curly hair, and her face was black too. I asked my mom about the doll, and mom told me that the girl was from a different nation. Mom told me, “You do not say anything about her doll, you hear?” I know now that she was African.

You know, we did meet many different nationalities of people. Some were Mexican.

In the evening, after we had our supper, my dad would join the men, they shared stories about what they did back home.

Dad talked about his horses, cattle and hay fields.

We gathered together around a fire, listened to people play their drums, their singing was awesome.

Raymond, from Quilchena, was always teasing the girls, he must have been about eight years old.

On the weekend came payday for the pickers, then the owner of the hop yards would have his bus and driver take us to the city to shop.

We always went to a theatre, to watch a movie, which cost around 25 cents for a child. Then we had ice cream and pop, that was our treat.

 

Jeanette McMaster is an Elder and member of Upper Nicola.

Leviticus chapter 26:9-11 “So I will turn toward you, make you fruitful, multiply you, I will confirm My covenant with you. You will eat the old supply, clear out the old because of the new. Moreover I will make My dwelling among you and My soul will not reject you.