Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

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Mission brand yellow cling peaches label

View a database that includes artifacts, photographs, and documents in the History San José collection which relate to Del Monte Plant #3 in San José, California.

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In Their Own Words

Beatrice and Friends

Learn about Del Monte Plant #3 from the people who worked there.  See videos of former Del Monte employees sharing their memories.

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Working Moms

Work at Del Monte presented special opportunities and challenges for mothers who wanted or needed to work.  Most of the Del Monte Plant #3 oral history respondents were working mothers who chose seasonal work at Del Monte because it fit into their family commitments. 

Like all working mothers, women working in the cannery faced the challenge of finding appropriate and affordable child care.  Calpak did at times operate a nursery at the Plant #3 site.  The nursery provided basic child care during the day shift and the second shift.  But by the 1960’s, this service was no longer offered. Some women left their children with family members or neighbors; others paid for babysitters.  Julian, Beatrice, Lydia and David Sanchez, c. 1965.When female workers got desperate, they might leave their children sleeping at home while they worked the night shift.  There were even reports of children sleeping in cars at canneries while their mothers worked.  For many years, Calpak forbade pregnant women from working.

Many women worked out complicated shift arrangements with their husbands.  The husband might work the day shift at his employer and the wife the night shift or swing shift at the cannery.  During the day, the wife slept a bit, did chores and prepared food.  The family ate dinner together, then the wife went off to work and the husband put the kids to bed.  When the wife returned home around dawn, she was just in time to fix breakfast for her husband and children.  Such arrangements were exhausting but women workers struggled through, knowing the great contribution their paychecks made to the family finances.

Of course I was [tired], but I mean you have to do this and you have to do that. You know you’re a mother, a caregiver, but my husband was very helpful too. Plant #3 worker, Nina Flores

Beatrice Sanchez’s Anita Street House when she worked at Del MonteIn many cases, women workers reported that the money they earned at the cannery supplemented the family budget, allowing for a few more luxuries in the household.  Some spent their paychecks on better school clothes, books and supplies for their kids.  Some saved up for a new washer or other household convenience.  And many reported that they were able to buy homes because of the money they earned in the cannery.  Long-time Del Monte Plant #3 employee Mary Lou Reyes said, “I’m very grateful to Del Monte, because of my work at Del Monte, I bought [my] house and I was able to help my husband to send my kids to college.”