Louise, once a stripper turns 86

It’s me Louise

I shocked my daughter tonight over birthday cake and coffee when reminiscing about my youth. I casually mentioned that I was once a stripper. That was one of the stories I had never before mentioned and she found it less than amusing that I would chose to tell such a story in mixed company tonight! After she got up off the floor I explained ; a tobacco stripper in a factory.

I came from a poor family and was forced to quit school to help support the family, all four of us girls had to sacrifice. Maybe sacrifice isn’t the right word, perhaps contribute would be more appropriate. We had a very good father and a very hard working mother. Formally educated or not – we all ended up business owners and property owners in the end thanks to the hard work ethic we were taught by our parents.

I started out making ten cents a day following the women who picked beans by the bushels. They got a dime a bushel and managed to fill many bushels a day but us kids were given the lines that the grown women had already picked so after they grabbed the handy bunches we cleaned up the stragglers and were lucky to get a full bushel by the end of the day.

The boss always pushed down hard on the beans to be sure we filled that bushel too. Bushels were much bigger back then—well they sure looked bigger than the ones I see today! The bosses son came around with a water pail and a coupine (ladle) and we all took a drink and were grateful for it and never worried about the germs. Anyway I worked hard and I always got to keep 10 cents after I contributed to the household.

I used to go downtown to the Lodi movie house- for 10 cents I could see a movie buy my choice of some candy or popcorn and a drink. Sometimes, instead of movie I would go to Rocky’s and buy a Lemon Pie and then I would go hide under our front porch steps and eat the whole thing. I would save the change for penny candy for another day!

When I got old enough, women’s jobs consisted of being seated for long hours rolling tobacco leaves—as visible in this 1945 photograph of women working as tobacco-strippers in a factory. Stemmers and strippers, whose average age was fifteen, earned about eighty-five cents a day; more skilled lump wrappers made $1.65.



11 Responses

  1. Happy Birthday Mommie!

  2. Happy Birthday Louise!

    I am loving reading your stories! Thank you for sharing with all of us.


  3. Happy Birthday to You
    Happy Birthday to You
    Happy Birthday Dear Louise
    Happy Birthday to you

    And many more…I was singing that
    I enjoyed your story very much
    So BJs mom was a stripper LOL

  4. Tracey (safety1st) sends warm Birthday wishes to Louise.

  5. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday Louise.
    I really enjoyed your story about being a tobacco stripper, love the photograph.

  6. Tracey,

    I do to, isn’t amazing the difference between then and now!

  7. Happy 86th birthday, Aunt Louise. You were then and are now, a truly amazing woman!

  8. Happy Birthday Louise! You are 86 years young and wise! This post was very special for me since it reminds us all that hard work and determination does in deed pay off!

  9. Happy Birthday Louise!

    U should’ve held back the “real” version of your stripper story going for a while…. I can only imagine the faces! Priceless!!
    May God grace us with your presence for many years to come! There just aren’t enough people with your humor! xoxo

  10. Happy Birthday, many more! Loved the history; maybe BJ can talk you into making this thread your forum and you can inform and entertain with more stories of the good old days?

  11. Louise: My dad made us do the planting and harvesting in his small garden – our “payment” was having food in the winter, … worst was the March planting of radishes, onions and spinach in the cold rain. Best was homegrown tomato sandwiches on Mom’s fresh baked bread. Canning those beans meant snapping off the tips while fighting off the gnats in heat of August and “food fights” with the skin and seeds left after tomatos were sieved.

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