Young Kersey Hopkins, 1940’s

I was talking to my mom recently. She was telling me about a gentleman that worked with us at the orchard several years ago back in the 1940’s. His name was James Hopkins, but she said he always went by Kersey.  It’s an interesting and heartwarming story.  She explained to me how he worked with us while he was in his mid twenties. He just loved picking apples in the Fall. After being with us for a few seasons, he was off to join the army. He wanted to move away and do something different from his dad, who worked for years as a “hod carrier.” My mom had to explain to me what that was…

Being a hod carrier was hard, grueling, back-breaking work by anyone’s standards. A hod carrier’s job is to carry heavy loads of cement and bricks up to the bricklayers constructing tall buildings & high-rises. Kersey decided HE was going to do something else.

Hod carriers with loads of bricks and cement

So he enlisted in the army and settled in for many years there as a short order cook through the 50’s and 60’s. When he eventually left the military he retained his cooking expertise and got a job as a cook in Riddle Memorial Hospital, working there through the 70’s and 80’s, and eventually becoming a head cook! In the 1990’s Kersey had retired from work, but he still had one thing left he wanted to do.

Kersey Hopkins in 1996

So, one day, in 1996, my dad got a phone call from Kersey. “Ken, I’d like to come back and pick apples just One Last Time while I’m still around.” Simply put, He longed for those wistful memories of his youth, being out in an apple orchard on a crisp autumn day, up a tree picking apples. My dad happily obliged. So, for one day in the middle of October, 1996 Kersey Hopkins, now in his 80’s, did something he hadn’t done for about half a century. He tied on a picking harness and picked about a dozen ½ bushel baskets of Stayman Winesap apples. I have memories of that day. Kersey was absolutely enjoying himself. I can picture my dad clicking some photos to commemorate the moment. And I remember my dad attempting to pay him but Kersey was flat out refusing. They went back and forth awhile and eventually agreed on Kersey taking home a basket of apples, enough to eat some and maybe make a pie. But looking back on it now, I realize Kersey’s “real” payment was reliving the unfettered simplicity of youth, even it was just one last time.