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The Early Years

Sepia photo of a man in work clothes standing outside, his back to the photographer. He is packing apples into several wooden boxes on a bench. A black and white dog in the foreground looks at the man.

Packing in the orchard

More orchards were planted each year and packing on-site became time consuming and laborious. Soon growers began to work together to open cooperative packinghouses and streamline apple packing.

Many of the belles were by now proficient packers in addition to their traditional roles of wives and mothers, looking after the house and family. Some considered seeking paid work in the packinghouses, but this was still considered an unsuitable occupation. While the belles had helped their husbands pack the family harvest, apple packing as paid labour was not considered appropriate work for women. Those women who were required to earn a living found work in the more traditional occupations of cook, waitress, or housekeeper.

Black and white photo of an old one-story building in a field with hills behind.

Seaton packinghouse

Throughout Lake Country, more packinghouses opened. In 1913, the Vernon Fruit Union opened the first cooperative packinghouse in Oyama, followed by the Stirling and Pitcairn packinghouse in 1914. Winfield’s first packinghouse opened in 1916, operated by the Kelowna Grower’s Exchange and five local growers. Okanagan Centre’s access to transportation on Okanagan Lake made this community a major hub of the fruit growing industry. In 1913 the first large packinghouse was built by the Okanagan Valley Land Company. Other packinghouses included the Seaton, the Rainbow Ranche, and the Kobayashi packinghouses, each operated by local growers.

The packinghouses would soon need more workers and the belles were ready.

Colour photo of a map showing four communities with packinghouse locations marked by green squares. The map shows the growth of the packinghouses over time, with six packinghouses operating by 1920 and five more by 1930. Over the past century there have been at least twenty packinghouses in operation.

Lake Country’s packinghouses, from 1913 to present