February 15, 2011

Local farm shares story of founder, family history

This week E.Z. Orchards celebrates the birthday of its founder, Edward Zielinski, a family farmer who's life-long efforts have had a major impact on business and agriculture in the Mid-Willamette Valley.

Edward's grandson, John, shares this fascinating story about the Zielinski family and the history of E.Z. Orchards.

Founders Day

by John Zielinski

This Valentine's Day marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of our founder, my grandfather, Edward Valentine Zielinski, born February 14th 1905. It was an hour long bumpy wagon ride into the Salem hospital, so like his brothers and sisters before him he was born in the family home on Hazel Green Road. He was the 12th of 13 children in a farm family that was typical of the day. They were self sufficient. They grew almost everything they needed, had their own cows, hogs, chickens, orchards, vegetables, and grain. Surplus beyond what they needed was sold and bartered for the things that they did not grow. Ed grew up working on his father's farm. He also worked on neighboring farms. Education was important but not crucial to survival in those days, so Ed started working full time when he completed the 8th grade.

In his early 20's Ed worked on a bridge construction crew for Marion County. There are not many of those bridges left, but I remember as a child when my grandfather would point with pride to bridge that he had helped build. He also cut cord wood for homes in town, was an Ice Man for the City Ice Works Company on Trade Street, (where he witnessed his older brother lose his thumb in an ice elevator), he helped dig basements for homes, and something that I proudly point out to my children, he worked carrying hod (mortar) during the construction of the Elsinore Theater. Ed liked to be sporty and had a Harley Davidson motorcycle in the mid 1920's, (I wish that he had kept it). Ed was test driving a new Harley Davidson from Scott Cycle (yes, the same Scott cycle that is still in business on Commercial St now) and wrecked on the railroad tracks on front street. In another incident, a car driven by a local judge failed to stop for the stop sign and drove through the intersection of Market and Capital streets. This is long before traffic lights, Ed was on Capital street which was not required to stop. He ran into the side of the car crashed his motorcycle and slid in the gravel of Capital Street. This was prior to Capital or Market being paved. His Leathers saved him but he chose to never ride his motorcycle again. When I was young we had a motorcycle on the farm and Grandpa was always warning us to be careful.
Ed married Anna McIntyre in 1929. Her father Fred had been a master carpenter and built prune driers and several homes here in Salem, several are still standing on south Commercial Street. Being one of the youngest children in such a large family there was no land in the immediate Hazel Green area for Ed to purchase and farm. His first farm was in Sheridan Oregon where he grew wheat, prunes, apples, cane berries, and strawberries. It was 80 years ago that the company name of E.Z. Orchards was registered and fruit was first sold under that label. Ed bought the Sheridan farm in 1929. In October of that year the Great Depression struck with great force. Commodity prices were so low that Ed was on the verge of losing his farm. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal assisted farmers and Ed was able to make it through these troubled times. My grandfather was on the upper age limit of those being drafted for service during World War II and there was a great need for farmers to feed the troops. My father and Grandfather told me of the countless truckloads of fruit that they hauled to the Camp Adair basic training facility.
In 1945 the opportunity to purchase property from his widowed sister in-law allowed Ed to move back to the Hazel Green area. Like many people of his generation he was cautious in his farming practices having experienced the near loss of his farm during the Great Depression and was always leery of "getting more than you can do yourself". Ed drilled one of the first irrigation wells in the Hazel Green area in the late 1940's. My father was often busy selling and delivering the apples, pears, and peaches from our farm, so my brothers and I learned a lot from our grandfather about how things grow and how to work hard. He did not tolerate any slackers. He had worked hard in his life and expected the same from anyone who worked on the farm. Ed continued to work on the farm into his mid seventies even though he sold it to my father in 1969. Ed would work in his overalls, a Pendleton shirt, an old fedora hat and often had a pipe full of tobacco. When he pruned trees in the winter, occasionally a just cut stick would knock the pipe from his mouth and you would hear expletives of great color. I remember planting large gardens with my grandfather who definitely had a green thumb. He was fastidious in the care of his rose garden, and kept his yard manicured.
In 1985 Anne, Ed's wife, went to live in a care facility. For many months Ed went to visit, but he did not want to leave the farm and his home. He had always said that they would take him out of his home in a pine box. Eventually he did move to the care facility to be with Anne, but he only lasted a month a before he died. 

We celebrate the 82nd year of E.Z. Orchards as a business and the memory of the tenacious man who founded it, Edward Valentine Zielinski.

Edward Zielinski with grandchildren, Kevin and Theresa Zielinski

Related Links

Summer's Bounty at E.Z. Orchards

E.Z. Orchards Harvestfest

Hard Apple Cidre

1 comment:

  1. This is great! Please consider doing more historical notes about century farms and other old-timer farming ventures!


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