Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
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I, and my parents were born in Iowa, though I grew up in La-La Land (aka California). We ate a lot of watermelons when I was young, most of them probably coming from around Fresno. My parents always complained about the taste, and longed for a Muscatine melon. My mother told me they were only sold locally because they had such thin rinds that they didn't ship well. Obviously that is not the case, unless by the late 1940s they had been bred to have thinner rinds or some other factor that later limited their sales range.
Garth Groff 🦆
By 1921, production of melons from Muscatine County totaled 750 carloads of watermelon, produced on around 2000 acres of land; and 100 carloads of muskmelon and cantaloupe, grown on around 500 acres. The 1925 Iowa State Vegetable Growers Association reported
that Hal Wolford of Conesville was growing Hales Best and Perfectos: “The biggest benefit over California melons is that they are vine-ripened close to market.” It took approximately 12 days for the melons to reach the East Coast from the West Coast, whereas
it took about six to eight days from Iowa (Iowa State Vegetable Growers Association Annual Report, 1925). Truck growers at this point used domestic farm labor for producing and harvesting, and any other labor needed came from the city of Muscatine. Most of
the vegetables were marketed in Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities. Chicago was a 12-hour run by railroad; St. Louis, Kansas City and New Orleans were on direct rail lines, which offered good transportation facilities to the area
growers. The Growers Association also reported for the first time in 1925 that Iowa cantaloupes were shipped to New York in carlots.
Group - One good reference is the article, Moving Melons by Rail, by David Steer, Railroad Model Craftsman, Jan. 2014. More about the cars is in Ventilated Box Car, by Robert L. Hundman, Mainline Modeler, Apr. 2006.
I live in Hempstead, Texas, which was the watermelon shipping capital of the U.S., prior to 194O. Although, surviving photos show watermelons being shipped primarily in T&NO stock cars.