The Champlain Valley area just west of Plattsburgh was a great apple growing region. The hot days and cool nights of summer provided excellent growing conditions. The early frosts and warm fall days brought out brilliant colors and texture to the apples. The apple picking season helped a lot of families in Lyon Mountain.
The apple picking season around Plattsburgh was too short and the volume too small to attract the migrant workers who picked various crops for a living. This allowed the use of local area residents to pick the apples. Many people from Lyon Mountain picked apples to supplement income. Mothers who couldn’t work full time, people who wouldn’t work full time, young people without jobs, and students all picked apples during the short picking season. Many people returned to the same orchards for years on end. Students could get excused from school to pick apples for short durations.
If you didn’t pick many apples, you didn’t earn much money. If you didn’t show up early and on time at the orchard, there was always somebody to take your job. If you started early, stayed busy, and didn’t bruise your apples the money was good. The orchards were full of people who knew each other. The chatter, joking, and sometimes bickering made the day go by fast. We would leave town before daybreak in order to be ready to pick as soon as it was full daylight. My group averaged four or five students and three or four unemployed people who were out of school. We all rode in a 56 Ford pick-up. Three or four in the cab and the rest in the back.
We carried all kinds of lunches with us. We started picking early and stayed in the orchard until late afternoon. Our lunches were supplemented with apples, but they never lasted past eleven o clock. We would get counted out on our apples, pick up our days pay, and spend a portion of it on food going home. Sometimes we’d get a cold beer to wash down the food. It was all a great time and we got paid for it. Students could only pick for one week before returning to school. No one ever abused the privilege.
Apple season was notable because hunting season wasn’t far behind. The leaves were changing, the frosts were more frequent, and the winter skies were sneaking in.
We weren’t the best apple pickers………………but nobody in the orchards had as much fun as we did.