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Applebox Belles: the women of Lake Country’s packinghouses

Are you an Applebox Belle?

The Lake Country Museum invites the public to a community meeting Saturday, June 13th, to share your memories of you, your mother, or your grandmother working in Lake Country’s early packinghouses. The Museum is working with the community to develop a local history exhibit for the Virtual Museum of Canada.

BC Fruit Shippers packinghouse
BC Fruit Shippers packinghouse, Oyama, 1940

The exhibit, Applebox Belles: The Women of Lake Country’s Packinghouses, will present the experiences of the women working in Lake Country’s early packinghouses. The online exhibition will concentrate on the first women to work as packers, their training, work conditions, and personal experiences, and will include first-hand accounts and interviews with these women and their descendants. The exhibit timeline will include experiences in the first packinghouses of 1909-1911, during the World War I years, the changes in the fruit industry in the 1920s, and will continue through to the 1950s.

The orchard industry and packinghouses are an integral part of Lake Country’s history, from the plantings of the first seedlings in 1907 to the present day. In 1909, the Okanagan Valley Land Company and the Wood Lake Fruitlands Company planted extensive apple orchards, alongside the smaller, independent orchards, and the community became established as a fruit-growing centre of the Okanagan. During the period 1909 through to 1936, eight packinghouses were in operation in Lake Country, employing a large number of men and women. Women generally worked as packers, whose job it was to wrap the apples in paper, place them carefully in a box, then send the box on a skid to the press man. They received training in sizing the fruit, wrapping, and packing to box specifications, and in most cases quickly became adept at their work. Professional packers could pack 100 to 125 boxes per day of unsized fruit and up to 150 boxes per day of apples that had already been sized.

Today, the Lake Country packinghouse is one of the major packinghouses in the Okanagan, still employing many women as packers. As an historic exhibit, Applebox Belles will present the story of the early years, prior to the changes in packinghouse operations and the style of apple boxes switching from wood to cardboard in the 1950s.

Please join us Saturday, June 13th, 2 – 4 p.m. at the Carr’s Landing Room, Municipal Building, 10150 Bottom Wood Lake Rd, Lake Country. For more information, please contact the Lake Country Museum at 250-766-0111 or email

Editor’s Note: If you cannot attend the meeting but have information and/or photographs of the packinghouses, or people who worked in the packinghouses, please contact Museum manager Shannon Jorgenson at the Lake Country Museum and Archives.


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