Harold Rhenisch. "The
Fruit Wars." Out of the Interior: The Lost Country, Vancouver:
Cacanadada, 1993, pp. 109-110.
was one thin, wormy, shepherd-cross of a bitch, too, and that
was the worst, abandoned by two workers from Quebec, FLQ sympathisers,
on the run from the RCMP.
brother and I had been working sixty miles north that night, in
Westbank, sorting and packing apples in the only storage that
would rent us space. At midnight we loaded the fruit into the
semi-trailer - under cover of darkness so the fruit police would
not find us and confiscate the load. By that time, my father was
doing his best to destroy the entire co-operative fruit-marketing
system of British Columbia.
The system dated back to 1936, the result of an industry with
its roots set as deep in real-estate fraud as in commerce and
the possibilities of building a new country - the entire bottom
of Okanagan Lake, between Summerland, Naramata, and Penticton,
for instance, carved up into ten acre lots and sold sight unseen,
to prairie people - as an escape from the cold. And the land wasn't
cheap: in 1909, orchard lots in Keremeos sold for $1,000 an acre
at 9 percent interest, payable over three years - for orchards
which themselves would not pay a return before1919. Similarly,
the irrigation systems, built hurriedly by the real estate companies,
were so inadequate that in 1914 the B.C. government nearly went
bankrupt paying to upgrade the systems in Oliver and Osoyoss.
In short, it was industry in which thousands of inexperienced,
heavily indebted orchardists were producing fruit wholly at the
mercy of their buyers. Fruit unsold within a few days would be
worthless, so the growers continually bid against each other and
so destroyed their prices. In the end, understandably, they begged
the government to force everyone, including the independently
owned packing houses into one large co-operative system. In this
way they managed to safe-guard their industry for another thirty
years. By the sixties however, the system had become old and stale.
Many farmers were being forced out of business. With no accountability
for quality and orientation to market forces, many farmers were
being forced out of business. My father wanted to get paid for
his fruit, and in his despair, with all legitimate channels closed
to him, he chose to do it under cover of darkness.
started home from Westbank at 2:30 a.m. At 4:30, we ran out of
gas, so we started running. At 5:30 we finally stumbled home,
walked past the dog in the last convulsions of strychnine poisoning,
and into the house. Dad was waiting up for us, sleepless in his
guilt. He ad left as at 2:30 the afternoon before. We wolfed down
some bread and sausage, then went back outside to have a look
at the dog but she was dead.