There was always plenty of opportunity for earning some cash during the school holidays – a number of Methley farms specialised in the crop and organising casual labour for picking. Huddlestones would also purchase fields outside the area and transport the pickers in and complete the process through to marketing the bags of peas.
Most pickers took a bucket to fill and then transferred the gathered peas into sacks, however you could start by rolling the sack down and pulling the pea straws with one hand and dragging the pea pods off into the sack with the other hand.
But lets start at the assembly at 7.30am at the farm, everybody piles onto that distinctive yellow farm truck of Huddlestones containing empty sacks, weighing scales, weights, baling chord and hay forks and off we go collecting pickers from Three Lane Ends and Airedale with their bottles of tea and jam sandwiches.
Pulling could be at Coney Moor or somewhere near Tadcaster and on arrival the pea pullers would take a position at the edge of the field, say 1 yard apart and start to pull, fill the sacks and inch forward throwing the discarded straws behind. Start to eat the peas at your peril, once you’d started you couldn’t stop. Often there would be another find, occasionally an old coin, but mostly the old clay pipe stems dropped by the farmers of years ago. On more than one occasion I found a clay pipe bowl – I wish I had hung on to them.
Some pickers made faster progress especially the experienced women pickers, and after one hour the first full sacks are being toted to the weigh scales to be measured at 42lbs. Too little and you had to go back for more, too many and they gave them back in the next sack along with a payment ticket.
By 1.0 clockl I’ve nearly completed the fourth sack and wondering whether to go for the fifth or pack it in. No decision really, because there’s nowhere to go and I have to wait with my tickets for payout time anyway. So on with the fifth sack – the nimble fingered quickies have probably reached 8 or 9 by now in spite of the yacking. Behind us the weigh scales are being advanced nearer to the pickers and behind them the truck is being loaded up from the first of two stacks of full sacks of about 400.
At long last I’ve finished and Harold Crompton the Farm Manager is driving in with the cash – ‘Five at 4/6 thats one pound two and a tanner for thee lad’
Must make sure I collect a boiling for home before we climb back on the truck.