Many years ago, when I was just a little girl, our Syilx (Okanagan) people from Upper Nicola would go across the border to pick strawberries.

There used to be a big bus that would arrive at the reserve to pick up the people who were hired as pickers for the fruit farmers.

Our people would have their suitcases packed and ready to go. My mom Lizette used to pack a small suitcase so as not to take up space.

Elders like Josephine Michel from Quilchena used to love going across the border. I can still remember her. She wore a long skirt with a blouse that had long sleeves too. She also wore a straw hat. That was Josephine’s signature attire.

When the suitcases were loaded on top of the big bus, we were ready to travel.

Everyone had a lunch packed for the journey, which was good. Mom made sandwiches with beef and packed some fruit like apples or an orange.

The bus driver would announce each stop where people could use the public washrooms.

He also told us to be sure to have the proper change to use the toilets.

My mom had her change purse with nickels, which was the cost to use the toilets.

Today, I sort of laugh to myself about the nickels just to use the toilets.

It is a great wonder that no one stole the money from those toilet doors as there was a slot in which the nickel was deposited.

Of course, back then, no one ever stole anything from anyone. Not like these days.

The driver would stop at a nice place for us to have our lunches, then carry on.

When we arrived at the camp, the boss would give each one the key to their cabin. The cabins were very clean, there was a wood stove, a small table and chairs, one big bed and one small bed.

There was no running water though. We used the public pump, which served everyone. There was also a big public washroom with showers. There was a place to do your laundry too.

The days of picking strawberries would begin two days after our arrival. This gave each one of us an opportunity to buy groceries or whatever was needed.

Then it was picking time. The rows of strawberries were very long. At the end of each row, someone was there to punch your tickets. Each punch hole was a big basket.

At the end of the week was payday. Mom would gather her tickets and bring them to the office, then she would get her pay.

The owners of the strawberry fields always used their buses to take the people to the city to buy things. I remember the big city of Yakima, Wash. Oh my, the stores were so high, they were made of glass.

A movie was 25 cents for a child. My dad and mom would take me to see Roy Rogers and his horse.

I hope you enjoyed this journey into the past.

Proverbs ch. 31; verse 25: Strength and honour are her clothing and she shall rejoice in times to come.

As always in friendship,

Jeanette McMaster