The Coone Family
Andreas and Magdelena Coone, fleeing the devastation of WWII, ventured out of Netherlands in 1950 in order to create a new life for their family in Canada. In March 1960, after scrimping and saving, they were finally able to purchase a hundred acre farm on Austin Line, growing virgina flue cured tobacco, with a cover crop of rye. As many of you may or may not be aware, growing tobacco in the 1960ís was very different than today. Tobacco was hand picked, hauled out of the fields on flat wagons, either horse or tractor drawn, to be sown by hand onto slats to hang into a kiln for curing. Just as many local farmers, this is how my grandparents started out. The peach pit spitting Princess, who was ornary unless she had her morning snack with the boys in the field, was our means of transporting the tobacco from the fields. A tying machine was purchased in 1964, making life a little simpler. The harvest gang was upwards of 18 men, coming from various locations, including locally, Tilsonburg (the curer) and Quebec.
This venture certainly was not for the faint at heart. Just as today, you have to beat the frost in harvesting the crop. At that time, propane burners cured the flue. Constant checking to ensure the burners were alit, the propane was regulating properly to ensure an explosion did not occur and the tobacco was curing evenly was a full time job in the evening. All that after a long day of priming, tying, hanging and feeding a gang of men four meals a day. With hard work comes lots of laughter, especially when your new primer, a school teacher by trade, uses poison ivy while using the outdoor facilities.
This venture turned into a three-generation adventure, with their daughter Clara continuing to work on the farm, growing tobacco plants for other growers after their rights were sold in 1975. Clara's two daughters, Jodi and Nancy, also worked in the strip room and on the tying machine, respectively.
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