In the early 1900s, the entire country seems to have been enamored with celery. Celery was the super food of the early 20th Century, its promoters promising good health and weight loss. Early vegetarianism advocates were recommending recipes chock full of celery. And, in Wintersburg Village, farmers were toiling to meet the demand.
"In the peat lands celery can be grown in beds and by June the plants are ready to be set in fields. The plants are pulled, the tops trimmed to make the celery more bushy, then the roots are set in deep furrows. Boys and girls can help do this work." (Probably not an opinion shared by the men working long hours in the celery fields).
Miss Pearl continues, "Celery is carefully cultivated. As the plants grow, the dirt is gradually filled in the furrows. When about ready for market, the dirt is banked around the celery nearly to the top, where it is left for about two weeks to bleach.
LEFT: "Loading crated celery on to the cars." Long lines of wagons loaded with celery were a common site at the railroad sidings in Smeltzer and Wintersburg Village. Imagine the countryside smelling that strong, green scent of phthalides during the celery harvest. Scientists in the 20th Century determined celery contains the pheromone androsterone, which has an aphrodisiac effect for men. This might have made life easier for pioneer farmers when they tracked their muddy shoes into the house. (Image, June 1902, San Francisco Call)
The stalks turn from dark green to a creamy white. Then the field is plowed and the roots are cut with a celery cutter. Men trim and crate the stalks and then the celery is sent to market."
RIGHT: A postcard image of workers in the celery fields near Smeltzer and Wintersburg Village, undated. Arriving by 1900, many of the workers in the celery fields were immigrants from Japan, living in labor camps in Smeltzer and Wintersburg Village. By 1902, clergy began walking into the celery fields to talk to the laborers and the movememt to establish the Wintersburg Japanese Mission began.
A couple months later in November 1905, the Los Angeles Herald headlines shouted, "Peat Lands Now Worth Hundreds of Dollars an Acre." The Herald reported, "One of the most interesting sights in western wonderland is that of the celery trains which roll out of Smeltzer" (note: Smeltzer is in present-day north Huntington Beach, the Southern Pacific Railroad line carried celery freight from Smeltzer and Wintersburg to markets beyond).
"Seventeen carloads celery are now sent forward, bound for the large cities of the east," continued the Herald. "Three thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars are the figures at which these daily shipments are valued and so heavy is the demand for the Thanksgiving trade that there is much doubt as to all of the orders being filled."
Useless, dangerous and low class in the late 1800s. Okay. But, look at Orange County now (the Herald, a pro labor newspaper from William Randolph Hearst, published its last edition in 1989).
RIGHT: A crate of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda near two of Wintersburg Village's prime crops--celery and chili peppers--at the Historic Wintersburg re-creation of the Tashima Market at Holidays in Huntington Beach at the Newland House Museum. (Photo, M. Urashima, December 2015) © All rights reserved.
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