Old House Gazette snippet

September 24, 2008
By

Categories: Daffodil Types, General, Historics, Publications and Resources

Download PDF

Just thought this interesting; hadn’t heard of commercial daffodil growers in Illinois before…
 
 

That Was Then: Picking Daffodils for a Nickel

In a fascinating article titled “Daffodils, Pears, Melons, and More” in the spring 2007 issue of The Illinois Steward, Judith Joy writes:

98-year-old Mary Winks Weeks “still remembers the old days when the fields around Alma [Illinois] were covered with golden daffodils. When the flowers were in bloom, school was delayed so that the children could harvest the daffodils at the peak of freshness. The children were paid according to their size. ‘I was small for my age, so I got put in the nickel bunch,’ Mrs. Weeks recalled. Asked if she got a nickel for each bunch of flowers, she answered that the nickel was for the morning’s work.

“After the children went off to school, the women in the packing shed sorted the daffodils and packed them – 13 to a bunch – in cardboard cartons for shipment to the Water Street Market in Chicago. By planting a number of different varieties, growers extended the season from the first King Alfreds <

http://www.oldhousegardens.com/bulb.asp?cat=DA&page=4#KingAlfred> to the later blooming Narcissus type [probably N. poeticus recurvus <http://www.oldhousegardens.com/bulb.asp?cat=DA&page=6#pheasEye> ]. The early bloomers were called Easter Flowers, the name still used by many local people, and the later ones were known as Mother’s Day Flowers.”

Mrs. Weeks’ grandfather was the first daffodil farmer in the area, starting with the classic ‘Emperor’ <

http://www.oldhousegardens.com/backsoondaffodils.asp#Emperor> sometime around World War I. “At one time, 65 to 75 acres in Alma were devoted to daffodils, and . . . in addition to the 40 to 50 children who picked daffodils each morning, 100 women sorted and packed the flowers for shipment. . . .

“One of Alma’s last daffodil growers was Mrs. Weeks’ brother, Eugene Winks. When interviewed in 1979 he said the business declined because ‘high school kids today are too lazy to pick, . . . the Railway Express Company went out of business, and . . . there are no more street peddlers.’ For many years, Winks operated a small roadside market in Alma, and when he died in 1995, it was the end of an era.”

Pin It

One Response to Old House Gazette snippet

  1. Becky Fox Matthews, Tennessee
    Becky Fox Matthews, Tennessee
    September 24, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Would be interesting to know if there are still daffodils there.
    Becky


    Sara Van Beck wrote:

    " type="cite">

    Just thought this interesting; hadn’t heard of commercial daffodil growers in Illinois before…
     
     

    That Was Then: Picking Daffodils for a Nickel

    In a fascinating article titled “Daffodils, Pears, Melons, and More” in the spring 2007 issue of The Illinois Steward, Judith Joy writes:

    98-year-old Mary Winks Weeks “still remembers the old days when the fields around Alma [Illinois] were covered with golden daffodils. When the flowers were in bloom, school was delayed so that the children could harvest the daffodils at the peak of freshness. The children were paid according to their size. ‘I was small for my age, so I got put in the nickel bunch,’ Mrs. Weeks recalled. Asked if she got a nickel for each bunch of flowers, she answered that the nickel was for the morning’s work.

    “After the children went off to school, the women in the packing shed sorted the daffodils and packed them – 13 to a bunch – in cardboard cartons for shipment to the Water Street Market in Chicago. By planting a number of different varieties, growers extended the season from the first King Alfreds <http://www.oldhousegardens.com/bulb.asp?cat=DA&page=4#KingAlfred> to the later blooming Narcissus type [probably N. poeticus recurvus <http://www.oldhousegardens.com/bulb.asp?cat=DA&page=6#pheasEye> ]. The early bloomers were called Easter Flowers, the name still used by many local people, and the later ones were known as Mother’s Day Flowers.”

    Mrs. Weeks’ grandfather was the first daffodil farmer in the area, starting with the classic ‘Emperor’ <http://www.oldhousegardens.com/backsoondaffodils.asp#Emperor> sometime around World War I. “At one time, 65 to 75 acres in Alma were devoted to daffodils, and . . . in addition to the 40 to 50 children who picked daffodils each morning, 100 women sorted and packed the flowers for shipment. . . .

    “One of Alma’s last daffodil growers was Mrs. Weeks’ brother, Eugene Winks. When interviewed in 1979 he said the business declined because ‘high school kids today are too lazy to pick, . . . the Railway Express Company went out of business, and . . . there are no more street peddlers.’ For many years, Winks operated a small roadside market in Alma, and when he died in 1995, it was the end of an era.”