Jobs for the Boys … and Girls

In the picking season, everyone was needed. Announcements were made at the primary school, and children as young as eight collected their aprons and went to the fields to pick gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries or plums. They worked in the fields from 6.00 till 8.00 in the mornings, spent the day at school and then worked again from 4.00 till 6.00. During World War I, labour was so scarce that some children worked much longer hours, to the grave concern of school authorities.

The children competed amongst themselves to fill their baskets, found all kinds of ways to make it appear that they had picked more fruit than they had, and were proud to queue up with the adults to collect a pay packet on Saturdays.

Roy Wheeler talks about his boyhood fruit-picking

For many families this work meant food on the plate, a pair of shoes or new clothes on their backs.