Truck Farmers in Marshfield





Bags of corn being unloaded. c. 1940

In the 1940s Seaview had its share of truck farmers. These farmers were growing crops from the beginning of Seaview’s settlement, but I only remember the 1940s & 50s.

I was always told they were “Truck Farmers.” Most took their goods to the Boston market. Another  has informed me that they are ”Market Gardener’s”. Well, have I been misinformed!  “market gardeners!” ? Truck Farmer’s ?”I’m just going to call them what I had always been told, ”Truck Farmers’,’ because I like TRUCKS!     And any-way, before trucks were wagons? Were they  Wagon farmers?  Keep-on-trucking!

Saturday afternoons were special because after Dad finished his work around the yard or tearing apart the old railroad station, he would be off to Stead’s for a quart of Ballantine Ale and a cigar. I could tag along with a return bottle to exchange for a candy bar, .30¢ for quart of ale, .05¢ deposit, .15¢ for a cigar,  a candy bar with .05¢ exchanged for last weeks bottle! Total expense: 50 cents. High rollers, huh?


My Dad’s favorite treat on a weekend afternoon.


 A quart of ale 30¢


 A 5¢ bottle return got me a candy bar.

On the way down, Dad would turn left on Elm Street and the next house on the left was the stately home of Victor Belanger, a beautiful home with a huge barn, another smaller barn, and many outbuildings. As we traveled further, we came to Ferry Hill Road. Mr. Belanger’s land continued and included another large barn now known as the YWCA. A small pond and a boathouse were nearby. All of this to Little’s Creek was known as “Belangerville.” From his home to the red barn (YWCA), was cultivated, I remember lot’s of corn in the fields.   Mr. Belanger was a dapper of a man that did his business in Boston, and a gentleman farmer in Sea View.
A note from Bill Frugoli of Summer St.
” My Uncle, Louie Frugoli would work on the Belanger’s Farm,circa 1912 before going to Boston for winter work, he would come back occasionally for the Marshfield Fair.”
Thank you Bill.

There were three fields of corn on the east side of Summer Street at a cart path to Pine Island, now known as Warren Ave. Before the war, Manuel DaLuz cared for these for Mrs. George Taylor, who owned large garden plots on both sides of Summer Street.

Manuel was drafted into the Army and was gone long enough for those fields to grow into weeds and brush. Farmland was becoming valuable after the war. In 1946 the first new home in Seaview was built in that cornfield at 146 Summer Street and Warren Ave. by a Mr. Sherman. Keep in mind, houses were not numbered in Seaview in the 40s.

Gathering corn

As we continue up Summer Street and turn left on Pleasant Street under the railroad bridge, passing Gino Rugani’s Sterling trucks. Gino was the largest general contractor in Marshfield. At the top of the hill, the street turned sharp right, shortly on the left was the Salvetti farm. Fields of tomatoes ran from the street up the hill and past their farmhouse and barn. Peter Salvetti was a mason by trade and also farmed his land to sell to the market, a truck farmer. His son Sergio still farms a plot of land atop the hill. Peter’s  other son, Aldo, is also farming a small plot atop the hill behind the homestead.

Next came another field of tomatoes up the hill to the Cervelli’s. Mr. Frank Cervelli was the largest tomato grower around. There were large fields past Eames Way, full of tomato plants strung on strings to a wire supported by posts on each end.   Mr. Cervelli had a large processing operation off Pleasant Street. Crates of tomato’s would arrive to be culled, washed, polished and packed for the Boston market. His truck would be stacked to the top of the boards, tied and covered with a canvas, ready for an early trip to the Boston market. I could never get enough of those big juicy sweet tomato’s

I don’t know how this 1935-6 Ford made it to the Boston Market one to two times a day overloaded !

The largest truck farmer in Seaview during the 40s and 50s was James Gonsalves, “Jimmy,” from Moraine Street. He rented the fields from  Miss Donovan of 101 Summer Street and Mrs. Lucy Taylor of 119 Summer Street. There were more than 10 acres surrounded by wonderful stone walls known so well here in New England.

These walls were to keep livestock in — or out — also to mark owners’ boundaries. Where could all those stones, rocks and boulders have come from, And how to get them to the wall?  Imagine a boulder of 200 pounds or more sunken and in the way of the plow. You had to dig around it so as to wrap a chain, then have your team of horses or oxen pull it out! Then what? Pry bar it onto a skid or scoop and haul it to the wall area, then pry it off and into position. The next time you look at a stone wall, think how you would feel at the end of that days work!

In the largest field,  corn harvesting was done by pickers walking down a row filling a sack then dragging it to the edge of the field where the tops of the sack were sewn tight, then loaded onto the truck. The large field was often used for cabbage and sometimes lettuce, but quite often for cauliflower. This harvest was the most complex to me.  Just after the heads formed, workers would tie the outer leaves of the cauliflower with an elastic band so the heads would blanch and form uniformly. I had always thought they did this to keep the worms out! They kept the worms away by filling a sack with DDT then walking down the rows giving the sack a slight shake over the plant!

When harvest time came, hundreds of wooden bushel boxes were stacked in the northeast corner, along with a few tables and stools or chairs with broken off backs. The cauliflower plants were cut from their stems, tossed into a horse-drawn wagon then brought over to the corner where the cutters, usually ladies, chopped off the tops. They would hold the plant by it’s bottom, then slice the leaves off as close to the head as possible, a very precision task! As they sat around, going about business, they would chat in their native Cape Verdean, and sometimes English and always laughing. When the trimmed heads piled up, they would stuff a box with waste leaves then place the heads up, until the box was full — I think five or six heads — then cover it with leaves. The boxes were stacked along the edge of the field, awaiting the truck. The smells were awesome (I don’t think that word was invented in the 40s.) Fresh cut cauliflower, new pine boxes and the smell of the pine grove across the tracks.

The boxes were made from box-boards from the Hatch Mill on Union Street and made into boxes, also many came from the Gib West Box Mill in Pembroke. Part of the building is still there, as well as the Hatch Mill.

1918 Wilcox Motor Truck.

A 1918 Wilcox Motor Truck and team of oxen loaded with empty wooden
boxes ready to pickup cauliflower off Summer St. in Seaview, c. 1930.


Jimmy’s truck would arrive late in the afternoon, to be loaded by the crew. Off came the stake side and back, then the loading began. Two men on the truck stacking, with the ladies passing up the boxes until they were to the top rail. The boxes were then covered over with a canvas to keep out the sun and dirt.

There were always culls left aside, so I would help myself. This applied to corn, squash, cabbage and lettuce.

Another truck Farmer was Manuel DaLuz. I first remember Manuel living in a barn on the corner of Summer Street and Warren Ave. Before the war, as I remember, the fields along Warren Ave. were full of corn. Manuel was drafted into the Army and the fields went unattended. After the war, the lot was sold and a large home was built in the corn field.

Manuel’s 1939 Ford Truck.

After Manuel returned from the Army  he began growing strawberries. A huge field of berries grew beside his house.  If Manuel ever thought he was having a bad strawberry crop, it wasn’t because of the robins or weather, it was because of the two young teenage birds camping out near the strawberry patch. My summer friend would arrive for the summer.  We would look forward to our camp outs, sometimes in my yard and other times in his. One afternoon we planed a camp out for that night. We got permission from our parents, got our gear together –a tent, ground cloth, sleeping bags, lantern, comics, flashlight, drinks and snacks; oh yea, a jar with a cover full of holes. After we set the tent up in a grove of locus trees at his house. We now killed time in the early evening playing ball, swapping comics and catching fireflies for use as a night light in the tent. Yes, it worked! Our plan for later was to raid Manuel’s strawberry patch just across the meadow .

Around 10 o’clock we quietly and quickly ran across the meadow hunched low to the cart path , over the stone wall and on to the huge patch of big red juicy berries. We stayed on the outside row so as not to crawl over and crush any berries. Now the trick was to feel a berry and slightly push your thumbnail into it to test it’s ripeness. Then pluck the big juicy ripe ones and munch ’em down, one after another, and another, and . . . Another trick was to bury the bitten-off stem with the other thumb — we didn’t want to leave any evidence of leftovers from the night time raiders!

About 15 minutes into our raid, we were scared to hell with the arrival of my dog, Lucky. Yep, he came bouncing up behind us, tail a-wagging and a some happy whining. OH S—!!! You see, Lucky was an English setter, mostly white, and stood out like a neon sign! Not very good for us! Now with both of us on our hands & knees, Lucky thought we were playing with him and started barking! We had to get the hell out of there, so, we scrambled on our hands and knees  down the row,and Lucky ran with us, barking and nipping our ankles. We got to the stone wall and cart path then full speed ran across the meadow and into the tent, dog and all. My friend was laughing like hell but I saw no humor in our past few minutes! I was shaking  who might have seen us? Who heard Lucky barking?

Needless to say, we didn’t sleep that night, waiting for the Berry Police or even Manuel. My Dad didn’t know that I asked Mom to keep Lucky in the porch that night, and he let him out when he went to bed.  Lucky was the only happy camper that night!l. We never again raided Manuel’s strawberry patch.

Hiding in my tent from the ”Berry Police!”

by Ray Freden
Originally published in the Marshfield Mariner, June 10 through July 29, 2009

3 Replies to “Truck Farmers in Marshfield”

    1. Hi Ray. Barry from Marshfield, off Summer St. U mention box-boards and boxes. Were both made at Hatch Mill or just box-boards? If just b-bs, then where were they taken to be made into boxes? Not at the Hatch Mill?
      And in your day were these wooden boxes used for anything else besides all those “truck-farmed” veggies and fruits?
      And what about the Civil War boot boxes? Did those boxes get made at Hatch Mill or not? I have found no documentation of that happening.

      1. Barry, Box boards were made at the Hatch Mill, My dad bought them from Decker. If any boxes were made they were made at the Gilbert West Box Mill on Rte 53 (3) in Pembroke, or the Phillips box mill in Havover, They would buy boxboards from any mill cutting them. No boxes were made at the Hatch Mill, Decker confirmed that in an interview stating ” his father never got around to it”. Civil war boot boxes is a mystery?

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