Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Orange County's Onion Harvest Festival and the Warwick Valley Telephone Company,1939

Orange County's Onion Harvest Festival started in 1939, and the photo at the right is of a float presumbably in a parade that was part of the celebration. The woman on the float at the right is my great aunt Lydia Hasbrouck (nee Kiel) who was a telephone operator for the Warwick Telephone Company for over 40 years. She started with the company in 1937 at age 21 at a rate of $1.00 per day. Her first check was for $44.00 for 44 days worked; Social Security was deducted from her subsequent checks at a rate of .01 cents per day. In 1957, she attained the position of chief operator.

Until after World War II, when Texas became the leading grower of onions in the US, Orange County claimed itself "America's Onion Capital." Another item included here is a brass token from the 1940 Orange County Onion Harvest Festival that was used as admission to this second of the annual celebrations. The late Eduard Peschel of Warwick, NY gave the brass token to me one day after he rediscovered it while cleaning out a drawer in his home desk in 1977. He related to me at the time that he had been an attendee. The token states "I have contributed to the Orange County Onion Harvest Festival August 15 1940" on the reverse. He knew how much I loved local history and often gave me such things when he came across them in the home he had lived in since his childhood at 10/12 West Street, and where, for a short time, I lived with my family in a small upstairs apartment.

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