The Garden Home Co-op Cannery (early 1940’s-1950)

Early U.S. Canneries

Beginning in the latter part of the 1800’s small canneries became an important part of many rural communities across the United States. By the late 1880’s there were over 3,800 community canneries in the country responding to the needs of those wanting to preserve surplus produce from their gardens and farms.

While many of these canneries operated to provide a profit for its members, the Depression of the 1930’s saw canneries being created to serve smaller local populations. In some states, Oregon being one, the State utilized some school cafeterias as canneries open to the public during the summer months.

Washington State operated 4 cooperative canneries funded by the WPA.  Families making less than $100.00 a month could bring in their produce to be canned, one-third of which was then given to the state, which then sent it on to county hospitals and prisons.

With the advent of WW II many of these local canneries switched to providing food to be shipped overseas to feed the troops.  In other cases canneries were developed to preserve the surplus produce grown in Victory Gardens.

The Garden Home Co-op Cannery

A surplus from victory gardens was the impetus for the establishment of the Garden Home Co-op Cannery. Finding a cannery close enough to use, driving there during a time when gasoline was rationed, along with other practical constraints led some five or six local families to seriously consider the possibility that the population of Garden Home could support its own cannery.

A temporary Board was established among the initial families and a community meeting was held to see how the idea might work. A ways and means committee reported back that school districts were interested in canned produce for the school cafeterias.  This meant that the cannery could be kept fully operating and would not be completely dependent upon co-op membership.  With this information the group was ready to proceed.

Leland Fryer was appointed Chairman of the Board with other board members being: Dene Hickman, Myron Goodell, Ned Donham and Hugh Coy.  Mrs. Allen Davis was hired as the bookkeeper.  The group organized as an association and set a membership fee of $5.00.

Along with studying government bulletins on how to organize a Community Canning center, Mrs. Dene Hickman and Mrs. Leland Fryer traveled to Silverton where the State Board of Vocational Education was presenting a course in developing and running a cannery. As needed, professional advice was given by Mrs. Sara Wertz, District Home Supervisor for the Farm Security Administration, and Ben Body, a former commercial canner.

With much of the Cannery’s output expected to go for local school lunches, the State Board of Vocational Education provided for a salary to be paid to Dick Hickman, then a senior in the Food Industries Department at Oregon State College. Dick took the position of paid Processor.

As for furnishing the cannery with the needed equipment, the fact that the food packing industry was considered a priority during the war meant that help was forth coming from the state, which loaned the co-op large equipment that could not be had by other means. Smaller items, such as scales, dishpans and clocks, were obtained from the community. Work crews, made up of local men met during their time off from their regular jobs to construct large worktables and install equipment.

New members of the co-op could attend classes arranged by Mrs. Jules Ringsmyer where procedures for using the cannery and tips on canning were discussed.  In addition, concise instructions for preparing the food, selecting the size of can for each produce, and amounts of salt or sugar for canning were mounted on the walls of the work area.  Every effort was made to see that the canned produce was of the best quality and safely processed with special emphasis being placed on using the freshest and best of each harvest.

Early on the co-op had a membership of almost 200 members with more joining as word spread that the use of the Cannery was available to those in surrounding communities who wished to join.  To get the word out, an Open House was organized by the women who served homemade cakes, ice cream and coffee to over 200 quests. The Garden Home Cannery operated as a cooperative untilMark and Leona Whitney purchased the operation in 1950.

By Virginia Vanture, November 19, 2010

References

Salem Online History-Salem Canneries
www.salemhistory.net/commerce/canneries.htm

KIRKLAND VIEWS-The Kirkland Cooperative Cannery-Now and Then
www.Kirklandviews.com/archives/18188

Russell, County, Kentucky: history & Families by Russell Co. Historical Society pg. 27

THE OREGONIAN,  “Garden Home: It Shelved Can’t for Cans:” by Ada Deggenforfer, Staff Writer.  July 30, 1944

January 2017 update by Elaine Shreve:

Coincidentally, Leland and Mildred Fryer were Elaine Shreve’s aunt and uncle.

Cannery has 1st Birthday!

The Oregonian article of July 15, 1945 details the first year of the cannery.  The initial action from the residents occurred in February of 1944, getting the investigative group organized.  Over 30,000 cans were processed that first season in the temporary location in Progress.

A year later in February of 1945 the group wanted a more central location in Garden Home.  However, no funds were available yet the residents were convinced of the need for permanent, suitable quarters.  The current Old Market Pub utilizes the cannery building with some additions.

From the July 13, 1945 Oregonian:  

A successful carnival started a financial campaign among cannery members, who have invested sufficient funds to make possible the purchase of land and erection of the modern hollow-tile structure that is now ready for business at the junction of Garden Home Road and the old right-of-way of the Oregon Electric railway. Not only their funds, but their time and labor have been furnished by some of the most interested members, and the more money, hours and sweat these people have put into it, the prouder they are of their ’baby.’

Note that in 1945 they do not yet use the term Multnomah Boulevard but rather the “old right-of-way of the Oregon Electric railway.”  According to the Oregon Electric Railway book, the tracks from Portland to Greenburg and the Beaverton stub were removed on March 22, 1944.  So it probably took a year to remove the trestles, tracks and decide what to do with the right-of-way.

At this time, Mrs. J. Ringsmyer was the manager-treasurer and $5 memberships were still available.  Most old-timers who lived in or near Garden Home have had stories to tell about using the Cannery for their home-grown vegetables and fruits.

Oregonian July 13, 1945 page 19 article about the Garden Home Co-Op Cannery

Oregonian July 13, 1945 page 19 article about the Garden Home Co-Op Cannery

Click here for more stories about the Old Cannery

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2 Responses to The Garden Home Co-op Cannery (early 1940’s-1950)

  1. Pingback: January 2017 News | Garden Home History Project

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