|Blossom Day headline and panorama, April 24th, 1927|
|Cherrians, their outfits, and the blossoms, perhaps in 1930|
Published January 1st, 1931
March 11th, 1920
100 years ago it was a festival around the agricultural flowering in orchards, around culinary cherries, prunes, pears, and apples. Truthfully, it was probably prunes most of all. Boosters wanted to show off the "beauty and productivity" of Salem and the surrounding area.
The festival was also made possible by car travel, and so the festival is indirectly dependent on auto technology and road engineering. Maybe similar events took place elsewhere by horse and carriage, but scenic loops of several miles aligned with auto technology more conveniently.* Organizers also leveraged, even pressured, Salemites for volunteer jitneys to drive around those who came by train:
Every person in Salem with an automobile, and a grain of civic pride, is urged to be on hand at the depots...to drive the thousands of visitors...to the various scenic parts of the county.
|April 24th, 1920|
|March 26th, 1920|
|Assessing the big freeze, December 26th, 1919|
|April 14th, 1920|
|April 22nd, 1920|
blooms were not out as fully as they might have been had weather conditions earlier in the week permitted [when it was sunnier], those trees that were cloaked in their sheens of pink, white, and gray shall linger as a pleasant picture in the memories of those who saw. Trees on higher sections were not so fully in bloom as those in the low lands....
|April 26th, 1920 (and some Hoover talk)|
But in 1928, and in other years, they claimed it was older. Here's the 1928 list of Blossom Day dates.
|Historical Blossom Day dates|
April 15th, 1928
So I don't really know yet what to make of that list.
On Flowering Dates and Climate
|The winter of 1914 was very mild|
and blossoms came early -
but no reference to "Blossom Day" on the 29th
March 20th, 1914
In 1920 blossoming at the end of April and into May seems late, but that collection of ornamental Cherries at the Capitol runs interference and has become our new standard. Those Cherries are early. The culinary Cherries I see regularly in a remnant orchard flower about a month later. They started to shed petals three weeks ago, and now are blown. But that's still meaningfully earlier than in 1920. But maybe not earlier than the seasons in 1914 and 1915.
|Finding heirloom varieties thought to be lost|
|Vick Bros. had an orchard|
in the Bethel hills
(Nov 1st, 1928)
Outside of atypical vineyards in Oregon like The Pines, a century-old planting by an Italian that looks more like something we'd find in California, our very earliest Willamette Valley vineyards date from the 1960s. The oldest family wineries have transitioned to the second generation now.
There are reasons beyond Prohibition wine grapes never took on here before then. In this note, also from 1920, about grape-growing, Howard Zinser says that European varieties like those planted in California (mainly those wine grapes) struggle to ripen here. It is possible that there was just enough warming by the 1960s and 70s to make cool-climate wine grapes feasible in a way even 50 years earlier they were not.
|1920 consensus: Wine grapes don't ripen here|
April 29th, 1920
|Our warming climate - Notes on a 2018 Casteel Pinot Noir|
Histories of our orchards generally dwell on the city's development into the hills. Most recently we have seen this at scale on the Lindbeck Orchard in West Salem. Housing had already wrapped around it, however, and it was nearly inevitable it should transform.
There are other stories about our orchards we might tell, and maybe we'll come back to them in more detail later. Changing demand and cost of production for prunes is one of course, but there is more. The fact that the Vick Bros., primarily auto and tractor dealers and not primarily farmers, had an orchard also is interesting, and might tell a story about relations between the urban core and rural edges, or about the capital of Big Business (by Salem standards anyway) and its investment in the orchards. We like think of a corps of independent, yeoman farmers, but the reality is more complicated.
|"Prune Culture," October 14th, 1890 and|
"Tempted by the Devil,"
an ad for the Oregon Land Company,
August 29th, 1895
|Sunnyside Fruit Farms, October 8th, 1892|
|Ladd & Bush Quarterly, 1912|
- "At Lincoln Town, Wheat was Big Business; Today, it's Ghost Infrastructure" (2013)
- "New Book on Zena Reminds us of Great Riding and Great History" (2013)
- "Zena's 1853 Phillips House Languishes, Wallace Road Betrays Robert Wallace's Generosity" on vestiges of pre-Statehood settlement (2014)
- "More on This Year's Century Buildings: Court Apartments and Roth Building" (2015) and "Vick Bros Sell to Watt Shipp et. al., who form Valley Motor Company" (2019)
- "Celebrate Peaches with a Ride in the Waldo Hills this Weekend" on one of our oldest Veterans, from the War of 1812, and his family's peach orchard. (2019)
- "Aloof, Unfriendly Bert Hoover left few Traces or Strong Memories for 1920 Salemites" (2020)
* This seems like the kind of topic on which there would be a dissertation, and maybe we'll find one sometime.
* In a history of the Cherrians published by the Mill, "Celebrating Cherries in Salem," they reproduce the 39th Blossom Day map from 1952. It goes up Orchard Heights Road, but not out to Zena. Blossom Day may have petered out in the 50s and 60s as the Cherrians dwindled. The "39th" ordinal designation also dates the first Blossom Day to before 1920.