It seems that strawberries have always been central to life in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. One can still find locally grown strawberries for sale and see a few fields filled with ripe berries and pickers but the culture associated with the growing and shipping and selling of the berries is almost gone. The strawberry industry in Tangipahoa is now just a shadow of its former self.
Not too many years ago the towns up and down US Highway 51 in Tangipahoa Parish bustled with activity during strawberry season. The towns were jammed with people and activity for weeks and there were berries just about everywhere. Private stands sold the berries all along the route of Highway 51, the migrant worker school was full of kids, and it seemed that hundreds of gallon jugs with red colored water advertised strawberry wine.
Even the strawberries were different back then. They were Klonkdykes. They had a distinctive aroma and they were tart and sweet. Once you had eaten one another type of berry would not do. However, the main market for the Klondyke was in Chicago and trainload after trainload carried the distinctly flavored berries there throughout strawberry season. There was no such thing as plastic pints and cardboard carriers back a few years ago. Everything was made from wood. As the season edged on the wooden pints and hand carriers would get drenched in strawberry juice and the delicious smell permeated the wood.
Not that long ago a disease hit the Klondyke plants and just about wiped them out. The growers switched to the Chandler Berry which is the same berry grown in California and Florida. Tangipahoa and Louisiana had lost its unique strawberry niche. Without a special product to offer, the commercial stores and outlets could get cheaper and more dependable supplies from other places.
In general I don’t eat genetically engineered food but if the Klondyke could be brought back through gene therapy I would eat as many as I could. I suppose the old Klondykes are grown in places but they are no longer the center of life in Tangipahoa Parish.
I have attached some of the old shipping labels that were once in use in Tangipahoa. The Louisiana State Library at least has images of many of the private labels. The imagery too was a vital part of the strawberry culture in Tangipahoa. All of it now has just about become a part history.