During much of the time that I was in grade school, as well as carrying papers, I worked for the Verheul family, during the spring and summer time, on their large produce farm, east of Three Rivers. They were called “Truck Farm” at that time. We would start early in the spring, cutting asparagus, and then continue on through the summer, hoeing, weeding, harvesting and everything else connected with that type of farming. Incidentally, at that time, asparagus was cut below the ground line, with a butcher knife, not snapped off as it is today.
Of all of the jobs that were connected with Truck Farming, the one that I disliked the most was grating horseradish. Someone in the Verheul family had, in the dim past, built a home made horseradish grater. It was made up of two wooden discs about 2-1/2 feet in diameter, mounted on a shaft, side by side, about six inches apart. The periphery, between these two discs, was covered with sheet metal. This metal surface had been punched with nail holes, from the inside, to form a grating surface, on the outside. This grating drum was mounted, vertically, on a frame work and was rotated with a hand crank, by a crying kid. The horseradish roots, after having been washed and trimmed, were pushed against the rough rotating surface of the grater and the finished product was collected in a tub, underneath the machine.
I suggest that sometime you buy a jar of horseradish, being sure that it says “PURE” on the label, and take a real good whiff of it, at close range. Then try to imagine what a whole tub of it would be like, also at close range. Bear in mind also, that what we were making was the real McCoy. Free enterprise had not yet taught us that everything should be diluted and misrepresented.
I can’t remember whether I was paid ten cents an hour and worked 12 hours a day or if it was twelve cents and ten hours, but I do remember that I got $1.20 a day, and that wasn’t bad for a kid, at that time. It really tees me off to hear kids say that if they can’t get the minimum wage, they won’t take the job. I worked because I knew that if I wanted anything more than three meals a day and a place to sleep, I had to go out and earn it for myself.
That truck farming operation seemed to be a family endeavor, with the Verheuls. Martin Sr. and his wife lived in the old farm house and Martin Jr., his wife and two sons, Douglas (he and I were about the same age) and his younger brother, Richard, lived in the new house located a short distance to the east.