Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

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Mission brand yellow cling peaches label

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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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Wartime Production

World War II created a difficult and yet profitable situation for growers, packers, and canners.  The mobilization of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines and support personnel generated a huge demand for canned goods around the world.  At the same time, the absence of so many men (and some women) from the workforce created an acute labor shortage.  The food processing industry had always relied on women and young people to work during harvest and production.  The emergency of the war years brought even more “non-traditional” workers into the canneries.

Ad from the San Jose News, August 10, 1942.City and county labor recruiters scoured every possible source of workers.  The San Jose chapter of the American Women's Voluntary Services (AWVS) personally telephoned housewives to entice them to cannery work.  Ads in San Jose newspapers accused women of selfishness and laziness if they did not join the cannery workforce.  Calpak’s office workers and managers worked on the cannery production lines to keep plants running at maximum capacity.  Working women and men with regular full-time jobs were recruited to work a five-hour Enedina Flores, 1944“Victory shift” from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. during the height of the canning season.  Santa Clara County schools superintendent Walter L. Backrodt encouraged high school students to continue working even past the opening of school.  Students who missed classes were given individual assistance to make up the work.  Enlisted soldiers and sailors were even assigned to work in the canneries to get the fruit canned and shipped to the United States government.

Detail from San Jose News, September 4, 1945, page 9.Calpak succeeded in maximizing wartime production and earned awards for exceeding government production goals.  More than half of the Santa Clara Valley’s war-time pack was purchased by the United States government.  Many soldiers and sailors reported their excitement on the rare occasions when canned fruit was available on the front lines. Calpak workers were particularly proud of their contributions to the war effort.  Even on V-J Day – August 14, 1945, during the height of peach season – 85% of workers at Del Monte reported to Plant #3 for their shifts.