Winchester Dried Fruit
Dried Fruit Packer
Winchester Dried Fruit was a dried fruit packer which was formed in San Jose in 1935. The principals were Bert Kirk, Jr., and Antonio Teresi, both from orchard families in the Santa Clara Valley, and Homer Hardin. Kirk's family owned much of the orchard land south of Dry Creek Road around modern-day Meridian Ave. Teresi's family owned the 220 acre Sorosis Fruit Ranch in Saratoga. Antonio also owned another 10 acres on the Santa Clara - Los Gatos road. Teresi wasn't just an orchardist; he'd also gone to business school. In 1938, Antonio Teresi was president, Harry Mitchell, Superintendent, and Ed Trojan, office manager. Winchester Dried Fruit's license was suspended around 1940 due to "claims of growers against the concern
Even though the company appeared in the depression, it appeared they still had difficulties because of the economy. In 1938, Bert Kirk, as manager, declares that 90% of their fruit was going abroad because of the poor domestic market.
1930's city directories showed the firm occupying many different buildings. At first, the company was in packing houses off Sunol Street (and possibly including the former Hamlin Packing building),. In November, 1936, their packing house burned down after "a series of explosions which either preceded or followed a fire... homes within a radius of 1000 feet of the two story fruit plant were shaken by the blast and startled residents reported that when they ran to the scene they found the building a mass of flames." The fire consumed 200 tons of apricots, prunes, and peaches worth $25,000. The plant was described as "just outside the city limits of San Jose."
In 1938, the company moved to Campbell in order to have more storage space. A final move brought them to the former Inderrieden plant on Ryland Street.
In 1939, the corporation sold 3,000 tons of prunes, apricots, pears, and peaches from plants in Campbell and Los Gatos. The value was $116,000.
There were several complaints and lawsuits from 1938-1940 concerning California's Agricultural Prorate Commission. The May 31, 1939 San Jose Evening News noted complaints that Winchester Dried Fruit was not following the "prune prorate" rules, and was dealing in prunes without obtaining "secondary certificates from the [prune prorate] commission." April 8, 1940 San Jose Evening News report complaint against Winchester Dried Fruit going forward because they were handling fruit without inspections and certificates, and weren't following the "prorate procedure". The prorate commission was taking more detailed control of the industry, probably in order to keep prices high. One of their rulings was that converting surplus prunes to alcohol and brandy was illegal. The commission was disregarding other laws, such as the state agricultural code banning growers from allowing fruit to drop and go to waste without the order of an agricultural authority.
A May 25, 1939 San Jose Evening News article gives more details about the prune prorate commission. According to the article, 25% of surplus fruit needed to be handed over to the commission, and Winchester was 150,000 tons behind in deliveries to the commission. Kirk complained that he had to ship the fruit in order to complete contracts when Hollister growers refused to deliver fruit. The Hollister growers hesitated because the prorate commission inspectors were only inspecting fruit at the packing house, and if so, they would have to pay to truck the fruit back to Hollister for re-sorting and re-submission. Kirk also charged that the inspectors were rejecting fruit which would pass inspection when delivered to other packers.
|San Jose||1936||1013 Sunol Street|
|San Jose||1938||631 Sunol Street|
|San Jose||1940||200 Ryland Street|
- Dried Fruit Company Becomes Corporation: December 10, 1935 San Jose Evening News.
- Winchester Firm License Suspended: August 6, 1940 San Jose Evening News
- Seek Cause of Mystery Blash: Friday, November 27 1936 Berkeley Daily Gazette. The fire happened the previous night.
- Packing Company to Start Work: September 10, 1938 San Jose Evening News
- Abinante and Nola et. al. vs Warehousemen's Union,Orders of the National Labor Relations Board Volume 26. Case C-1456 and R-1530 Decided August 24, 1940.