Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum
Tobacco History is a Shared History
In September of 2015 we asked on our Facebook page for people's best and worst momories of working tobacco in the valley. Here are some of the responses.
Ruth Jefferis shared these memories:
"Boys picking tobacco who put little snakes and toads in the baskets of leaves going to sheds!"
"Shed fires when dad managed AST's home farm."
Patricia Canning Stevens shared:
"I worked on tobacco for two days (I think) ... I had no idea what I was doing ... came home and my mom made me take a bath before I was allowed to swim in our "cool pool"!"
Irving Smithers shared:
"We were young African-American migrant workers (Ages 14 to 18) from Virginia, boys, and girls, working for the Hartman Tobacco Co. That's how we made our money for the upcoming school year Which helped our families a lot. My best memories were the friends I made."
The worst memories were the hot Connecticut summers and those big icky green tobacco worms. Some of the fields were so massive you couldn't see the other end. There was one in Windsor Locks we called "The Hill.." It was as wide as 3 football fields. Some of the younger guys actually cried the 1st time they saw it..We had one guy from Brookneal,Va actually faint when he set eyes upon it"
Bill Grace shared:
"Mulnite Farms, East Windsor 1962-1964. Hard, dirty work, but in those days all my friends also worked tobacco. The Mulnite family was great to their farm workers and it was a wonderful opportunity for a 14-year-old to earn some spending money."
J B Klem Shared:
"My Fondest Memories was working for Cullman Bros (Culbro) Tobacco Farms in Simsbury, CT in 1965. I started when I was 14 yrs old for the summer @ 1.15 an hour. I started in the fields and when the Field Boss found out I was a local, he elevated me to "Straw Boss". The Next year I came back and worked in the "Sheds" as a "Leaf Getter". That was find with me ...I got to work with the Girls...Florida and Pennsylvania girls.
The next year 1967 I got my license and was able to drive truck. Culbro had fields all over the valley. You never knew where you were going to be working. Sometimes fields were far away from the sheds. Then I became an Asst Shed Boss...that got me in with all the girls and the guys in the field hated me. I remember every 4th of July we would lose a Shed by fire...Tobacco in it 'curing" stage was cured by Propane Bunsen burner type of units....sometimes leaves would fall on the unit and ignite...quite the site...but very costly to the company.
In 1968 was the last season of my career in tobacco ....I became a Time Keeper which afforded me to go all over the "Valley". I went to fields, I went to camps, in general I was pay master. The cooks at the camps treated me very well. All in all my early life in Tobacco was some of the greatest times.
If I could do it all over again...I would jump at it in a heart beat."