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
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
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!
© 2003/2004/2005/2006/2007/2008 Creighton
Web Design by Audrie (Jamieson)