Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chicago Fruit Market, 1950's

I have been busy scanning Disneyland slides, but I have fallen way behind on my non-Disney, "anything goes" slides for Saturdays. So today's post is kind of different.

Somewhere in the great city of Chicago, there was (still is?) what appears to be a wholesale fruit market (probably from the early 1950's), where farmers brought their produce by the truckload to sell to various stores. These are kind of a neat "behind the scenes" piece of Americana. Some farmers used larger trucks...

... but it looks like a lot of them brought their smaller stake-bed trucks and large pickups to transport their wooden baskets full of peaches to the market. Mmmm, peaches. I wonder where those were grown, since I don't think of the Chicago area as peach country. Did they come from hundreds of miles away? 

This is my favorite photo of the bunch, with those great old trucks, and the hard working people waiting to sell their goods.

Melons! Why did it have to be melons? Some sort of muskmelon, by the look of them - a staple of a thousand brunches and buffets. This fella looks pretty sporty in his cap and necktie.

And here's one last look at a busy scene; you can almost feel the morning chill in the air. There's just something about these slice-of-life pictures that I find very appealing.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to this Chicago fruit market!


TokyoMagic! said...

Nice "Anything Goes Saturday" set, Major!

Are those baskets bushels, or are they pecks?

Nanook said...


Your guess as to the date of the images is probably correct. In the first image, both the "Nease Bros. and black pick-up truck heading our way are Fords. The design featured was in production from 1948-1950. And in the 2nd image, we can just see the front end of an orange truck, which is a Studebaker - the design of which existed from 1949-1953. Also the truck farthest on the right, is a black, 1948-1953 Chevrolet.

Also interesting in the 2nd image are the two gals - one towards the left and one up on the loading dock at the far right. (Or perhaps, merely cross-dressers - way ahead of their time).

Thanks, Major.

MRaymond said...

Quick question not related to these photos. I have some old photos to scan but they all seem to have a honeycomb pattern appear when they are enlarged. Any ideas for scanner settings?

Major Pepperidge said...

MRaymond - hmmm, that's a puzzler. The honeycomb pattern is only visible when they are enlarged? Could it be a moire pattern? Perhaps your photo prints have a texture. If so, make sure your "descreen" option is turned on. Maybe send me a jpeg, I would be very curious to see this pattern.

JG said...

Wow, these are great pictures, really bringing back memories for me.

My Dad grew tree fruit for market when I was a boy. We had a peach orchard in the Central Valley of CA. We sold the fruit in wooden boxes, not baskets like these, called "lugs" or "lug boxes". I guess because lugging them was hard work. A full box weighed 35 lbs. I couldn't lift a full one, but could carry and stack the empties. We took out those trees when I was 10 and went on to other crops.

A flatbed truck would come to the farm and we loaded that up for shipment to a railhead packing house where the fruit was sent "back east" by train. The structure in picture 2 is very similar to the packing house where we delivered. The black truck in center of picture 2 with the "waterfall grille" is EXACTLY like the truck we used. (Nanook, what model and year? 1939 Ford I think...) As in the picture, the truck would back up to the dock and offload the boxes. Dad would stay at the farm and work with the picking crew, but I would sometimes go with the driver to the packing house about 7-8 miles away, just for the ride. I was too young to sign anything or handle paperwork. Nehi soda in the Packing House icebox. The kind where you reach in and the bottles are sitting in ice.

@Tokyo, I am pretty sure these are bushels. I believe a peck is somewhat smaller. I think boxes may have replaced baskets in our area (or maybe everywhere) since the boxes protected the fruit. The square edges and ends would carry the weight and not transmit it to the fruit as the basket would do. See the loads in pic 2, those peaches right on top would be damaged by stacking as you see them here, reducing their price. We took great care with the fresh pack fruit. I would wrap each fresh-pack peach in newspaper before putting in the box, this would net top dollar at the local market. Shipping un-ripe fruit was easier since it was still hard and more resistant to damage.

We picked the fruit for distant markets before it was ripe since it would ripen on the train in transit to market. This was called "green-ship" back then. I don't think this is done anymore due to the prevalence of refrigeration. Now fruit can go into a reefer semi-truck trailer right in the field.

These pics look like maybe 10-15 years before my time, judging strictly on the age of the vehicles. Dad had a 1957 black Chevy pickup, successor model to the one at the extreme right of pic 2.

@nanook, I agree, that truck is 48-53 since the turn signal is integrated in the grille. The '47 had a little bubble lamp below the main headlight. One of the few very minor changes in that body style till the 3-window variation with the odd grille in '54.

Major, thank you so much for posting this, just a splendid reminder of how farming used to be done. It's all so very different now.