Renting My Muscles Out

In 1919 my dad got a brainstorm and rented the farm out, then moved us all down to southern California. That depressing event lasted 'til 1927, when luckily, my dad got wiped out. That caused us to move back to good old Washington.

I worked for Walt Knott for two years - the only experience I had of renting my muscles out for twenty-five cents an hour. The old guy got to be quite a big-shot after I left California and came back to the promised land.

Since then, he moved in a whole pile of shacks and what-not from the desert and opened up what is now known as "Knott's Berry Farm". I still think the most interesting place to see is the restored mining town out in the Mojave Desert called "Calico". When I saw old man Knott seven years ago, he said he turned Calico over to the state of California and it is now operated the same way as the Hearst Castle at San Simeon.

While living down south, my folks, in the spring of 1925, bought a 15-acre ranch and accessories including an old-time International 8-16 tractor. A Mexican named Jim was thrown in on this package deal. Jim farmed this place until I legally quit school upon reaching the age of 16.

I no more got to tear around a little with the old tractor when my dad decided to divide and sell most of the ranch into two-acre tracts. I was sorta left flat footed. A ray of sunshine entered my young life when this little guy Knott rented 15 acres across the road from us. A few tears before he had rented ten acres down the canyon near Anaheim where he lived with his wife and four sprouting kids.

This valley was full of honest, hard working folks that came from Oklahoma or Missouri with pockets empty, but were satisfied if they were allowed to survive. Walt Knott and his family came from this same background, but he seemed to have more guts, and must have had a little silver in his pockets. We were the only family around there that came from up north. Two of our neighbor lads rode out with their folks and step-kids from Missouri in a broken down old truck.

A typical young, lanky okie that always had a large chew of tobacco in his mouth; he hauled his mother and some tame rabbits out from Oklahoma in and old Hupmobile. He wanted to marry my sister, and later when we left, he became a foreman for Knott. A few years agfo he stopped in to visit us. Now he happily owns his own berry ranch in Oregon.

Anyway, after Knott rented this vacant field, these neighbor lads and myself laid for him and, when he finally showed up, he gave us a job. We were put to work digging out sand burrs and putting in new strawberry plants. Besides us three, the other neighbor was added, also and old guy, and three Mexicans. The crew stayed the same during those two years, except at the height of strawberry picking time, when he would hire some of the poor starving chicken ranchers that were scattered throughout the valley.

During the slow days he would put us to work down at his Anaheim place. He had already built an open, winged shed by the road that ran past his place, and was selling mostly strawberries and watermelons. Soon Knott put up a shed-like stand where we lived. I sure got hooked on strawberries while working for him. I have never taken a withdrawl cure yet. So when the first strawberries hit Davenport each spring, I gotta have a strawberry fix. Sugar and I get away with more than two flats a week all season long till I frantically cannot find anymore. 

"Working On Knott's Berry Farm" Kik-Backs, page 9, Part 1

Walt Kik