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Who knew that the abundant tasty blueberries that we picked as children were so nutritious for us as well?
When our family was living in the bush behind the town of Creighton Mine in 1952-3, Mom noticed many people approaching our house early in the morning, then go into the bush and up on the hills surrounding the area. Several hours later they would re-emerge carrying full baskets of blueberries. We knew nothing about this activity at the time as it was only our second summer in Canada. Dad asked one of his colleagues at the mine about this. He learned that these Creightonites were picking blueberries which grew wild on the hillsides to send away to Toronto which caused them to earn extra money. He and Mom decided that we would also do this. My parents had been searching for some way of earning some extra funds in order that they could save enough money to enable them to purchase a house. The family needed to move out of the bush into an actual neighbourhood where we would not be so lonely and isolated in this new land.

Creighton Mine was a multi-ethnic town which we did not realize when we moved here in September of 1952. Blueberry season brought that home to us as we witnessed ladies emerging from the forest carrying full baskets on their heads. We children were amazed and could not help staring as we had never before witnessed such an unusual sight. Often these ladies would ask mom for a drink of water before going home as it was extremely hot on the hillsides. They would put their 11 qt. baskets down and rest for a few minutes while consuming the water. As we watched in fascination this one particular lady who picked daily, would place a round wooden disk on the scarf on her head, adjust it, then carefully put her 11 qt. basket on top of that disk. After that she would bend her knees carefully and pick up her two other baskets to carry them the two miles to her home in Creighton. We never saw her spill any berries as she went on her way! Her accent was difficult to understand but we eventually discovered that she had immigrated from Croatia. We never did learn her name – but she was a welcome daily visitor throughout blueberry season.

Dad took my two brothers, Ronald and Willy and myself up into the hills early one July morning to see if we could find the blueberries we had heard so much about from others. Since it was our first foray into the woods we carried all manner of containers with us. It did not take us very long to locate a wonderful spot absolutely filled with the low bushes bearing copious amounts of berries! Quickly we sat down and began to pick but many little branches and leaves fell into our pails as well. My brother Willy who was only 8 years old decided that he would sooner eat blueberries than put them into his container. They were undeniably delicious but his pail was not filling. Our Dad noticed that Willy’s mouth, tongue and hands were stained a give-away blue revealing what had been happening. Dad soon put a stop to that and insisted we must fill our various containers before we could return home.

From then on, picking blueberries became our daily routine. When Dad was working afternoon shift we would leave the house early in the morning returning home in time for him to wash, eat and walk to work at the mine. The following week he would work day shift and we climbed the hills in search of blueberries after an early supper. Mom stayed home with 4 year old Franky and our baby sister Liesje.
Occasionally she would go with Dad and my brothers in the evening
while I babysat the little ones.

By questioning his colleagues at work, Dad soon learned about the proper baskets, covers and how to ship our berries to Toronto by train as many other Creightonites were doing. From then on he carried our full baskets with him to work and dropped them off at the Creighton train station.

Our father grasped blueberry picking skills very quickly and was soon able to pick an 11 qt. of the small blue wonders in good time. He even figured out how to find a hilly spot on a windy day to clean the berries by letting the breeze blow out the detritus. This was essential as more money was paid by Stronach in Toronto for blueberries in excellent condition. Picking these little blue beauties was, and is, hot, difficult work. It takes many berries to fill an 11 qt. and even a 6 qt. which is what we were expected to pick. However our efforts were poorly rewarded especially during the height of the season when the cheques would arrive paying us a meager $4.00 for an 11 qt. basket of blueberries.

However by the end of that first season we had accomplished our goal and my parents had saved enough money for a down payment on a house in Rockville aka Dogpatch. All of our efforts towards this end were rewarded by being able to move into a house in a built-up area with the luxury of electricity(!). The lesson we children learned was a valuable lifelong one! Hard work brings results! And wild blueberries are delicious!

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