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Frances Pearson Reminisces about Huckleberry Picking

Each August when she was young, Frances Aiken Pearson of Prospect, Ore., and her family joined hundreds of other berry pickers for a week or so on Huckleberry Mountain.  In an oral history recorded in 1981 when she was 95 years old, Pearson exclaimed, “Oh, but those were great days!”

She slept on fresh-cut boughs after staying up late around a campfire listening to “real old cowboys” singing and playing guitars and banjos.  Rising at dawn, whole families spent the day picking berries, the children generally two gallons a day, the adults five gallons.  At day’s end, they returned to camp and savored huckleberry pies and beans cooked in Dutch ovens.

When Indians came from the Klamath Reservation, she said, “You could … see that stream of Indians, … the  (women) … and their papooses in a basket behind them, … all going up the mountain.” 

The Indians dried their berries on canvas sheets, but other pickers canned them at home in everything from used tin cans to wine and beer bottles, corked and sealed with wax.

Born in Prospect, Pearson taught school there for 26 years.  She died in 1984 at age 98.

Source:   Source: Recollections: People and the Forest from the 'Upper Rogue' to the 'Dead Indian Plateau'. Vol. III. Medford, Ore.: Rogue River National Forest, 1990. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. http://soda.sou.edu/awdata/020829c1.pdf; "Frances Imogene Aikin Pearson." Find a Grave. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.