SUNNY SLOPE PEACHES – “THE LEADER”

With temperatures in the mid to upper 90s consistently for quite some time now, we knew we wanted to head out picking somewhere already known as a “cool” (as in amply air-conditioned and willing to use it) location.  Outdoor flea markets won’t be on our list any time in the near future, at least not until the mercury starts dropping considerably. 

As we were getting such a late start, we decided Catawba River Antique Mall was probably our best bet. No need to stop for the obligatory breakfast as we had feasted on fresh tomato sandwiches at home for lunch and no need to hook up our GPS - I’m sure she was happy to spend the hot summer day hidden away in the inner sanctum rather than on the dashboard in the blazing hot sun.  Lula Lancer the Hula Dancer, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky, but at least she’s dressed for the heat.  Guess I better remember to make her a little coat this winter – a grass skirt and coconut bra don’t do much to keep the winter chills away.

It seems Catawba River Antique Mall has made more than a few changes since our last visit, most notably a venue space including tables, chairs and linens for wedding receptions.  The River Café has been replaced by Peace and Hominy Bar-B-Que, offering lunch selections including barbeque with their special-recipe sauces.  Some vendors were offering summer sales and others were rearranging. 

While the wooden floors are better on the Great One’s back, eventually he needed to sit a spell and so began the search for the perfect chair.  Too hard, too soft, too low, too high, too narrow - but then he found one that was just right and so I left him and continued wandering in and out of booths in search of ever elusive treasures, sadly coming up empty-handed. 

Although he was sitting, the Great One was far from idle.  Just a couple of feet from his chair was a crate full of picture frames.  Definitely not his cup of tea, but back in its day, instead of picture frames, the crate held “Tree ripened peaches fresh from Sunny South Carolina.  Grown and Packed on our Sunny Slopes in Gaffney, South Carolina.”  (Remember that giant peach?)  Not only were the slats on both sides stamped as in the quotes but each end sported a full color label, as well.  Other than what looked like some good-sized splotches of melted wax on one side, the crate was in pretty good shape.  I’ll have to say the Great One has a pretty good eye.

Doing a little research, I found the website and FB page for Sunny Slope Orchards in Bridgeton, New Jersey.  Now what does that have to do with our peach crate from Gaffney? Well, it seems that in 1928, Vincent Caggiano and his oldest son, Tony bought 126 acres of land in Bridgeton and thus began Sunny Slope Farms.  In 1943, three of Vincent’s sons came to Gaffney where they expanded the family business.  Today, the farm in Bridgeton is still operating, but the Gaffney farm was closed in the mid-1990s.  While Sunny Slope has incorporated some new techniques, they prune and thin their trees by hand continuing to produce high quality peaches for their customers.

So the Great One got out his little hammer and gently tapped a few loose nails back into place and I got out the hair dryer and a plastic scraper and loosened up and removed the wax.  Our Sunny Slope peach crate now looks as good as new, but I won’t be putting any peaches in it.  Maybe one day I’ll tell you about my experience with a basket of peaches decades ago.