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Trencherman's Lunch: 1940

Trencherman's Lunch: 1940

October 1940. "Lunch hour at one of the farms of the Woodman Potato Co. All of the pickers and field laborers eat in this converted tool house, 11 miles north of Caribou, Maine." Acetate negative by Jack Delano for the FSA. View full size.


Bokar Coffee spoon holder

The can in the lower center holding the spoons formerly contained Bokar Coffee (a dark blend made from 100 percent Arabica beans), one of several brands sold at A&P, along with the famous Eight O'Clock and Red Circle.

The paper plates of yesteryear

That "that gelatinous looking pie" is likely a pumpkin or squash pie from Table Talk (or its Maine equivalent) Pies, a ubiquitous pie supplier that sold its pies in pie plates that, here, are being used as dinner plates. No paper plates back in the day - too wasteful. I bet they use the plates all season and then return them at the end of the season for the deposit. Btw, these tins from Table Talk fetch $15-20 each on the market today.


Those ceramic marmalade jars (I have two at my house and my brother has a couple, I think) have been fixtures since we were children. They hold pencils in our kitchen and pennies on my dresser.

Several years ago, they went to plain glass (cheaper, I guess) and the brand is now part of an American conglomerate, Hain Celestial Group. Sad.

Look up "Dundee Society" -- those jars have quite a history.

Lack of spuds

I see no potato based food on the table. Perhaps, like my sister who worked at a bakery, you get tired of what you work with very quickly. Surely potatoes were plentiful. Looking at some of the fingernails, some workers got dirtier than others.

My previously mentioned dear departed father-in-law grew up on a farm, and when the crops came in, he didn't go to school. The principal called his mother once about his truancy. Once she "nicely" explained why he was missing school, there were no more problems.

The Man middle right side

He also looks like he knows his way around a set of knuckles. Care for a Sandwich, buddy??

Spoon holder

Bokar coffee was an A&P brand, discontinued in 2012.

Gelatinous Pie

Looks like Sugar Cream Pie. Waaaay too sweet.

Unmistakable marmalade jar

I keep pencils in the Keiller's marmalade jar my dad gave me 50 years ago. In this photo there is a Keiller's jar just to the right of the water pitcher.

Trencher-man or Trencher-boy

Some of the crew seem a bit young, but I guess in those times, many a "boy" had to grow up quickly, and become a "man", lest his family starve.

[Farm kids working the fields at harvest time is not exactly a novelty. - Dave]

Agreed, but being from Maine, and familiar with picking potatoes, the usual method is for kids to start school in early August, take September off for picking, and be back in school in October ... unless it was a really late season.

I love olden days eating photos!

Sauerkraut, biscuits, bean and/or noodle salad, some manner of meat -- but what is that gelatinous looking pie?

The Ends

Learned a long time ago: Never sit in the middle, always the ends. Otherwise you do nothing but pass food back and forth.


Yikes! The brutal glare from the man, middle right side, says it all -- "keep your distance buster!" Younger brother of John Dillinger?

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