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The Cherry Pickers: 1940

The Cherry Pickers: 1940

July 1940. Berrien County, Michigan. "Cherry-picking season. Family of migratory fruit workers from Texas." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon. View full size.


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Matching bonnets

The wife's headgear and the pickup's bed cover came from the same plan, only the scale was changed.

Go "Strait" to Mackinac

I imagine this family began the season picking cherries in Berrien County, which, being in the southwest corner of the state, had the earliest crop, and then followed U.S. 31 up the shore all the way to Traverse City and beyond to Mackinac as the fruit ripened on the northern route.

Living in Berrien County now and seeing local images pop up on Shorpy every so often makes me wonder if any of the migrant workers stayed, and whether I know any of their descendants.

Decisive Moment

What a great capture!

Sour looks

Sour cherries too, it seems.

Funky headwear

Fedora on the kid, sideways engineer’s cap on Dad, and Handmaid’s Tale for Mom.

Deeply moving, and sad

This photo could be hanging in a museum of 20th century existence: the motorized covered wagon; the sun-bonneted mother who seems old beyond her years; the cloud of tobacco smoke coming from the father's mouth; the sullen kids, who already appear to be angered by life.

Car ID

Star, made by Durant.

Goofus and Gallant

The two boys made me think of the duo from long-running series in Highlights for Children magazine.

Fruit Punches

I picked Michigan cherries for a summer job in the early 1950s. You get a card that they punch for each bucket you fill. You can eat all you want. You do have to finish every tree you start, however. No just doing the lower branches where it's easy; you've got to get up on the ladder and do the top ones too.

At the end of the day they count your punches and pay you.


Little guy in the jumpsuit reminds me too much of Chucky!
And his brother looks kinda sketchy, too.

Divergent paths

Looking at these boys, I can imagine very different futures for the two.

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