Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?
It’s always refreshing, and a little unexpected, to see bright oranges piled up at the entrance of the produce aisle just as the chilly grip of December and January is holding so tightly onto the Northstate. The presence of Jerry Weece’s wooden orange stand in a field just south of Costco, with bright mesh sacks of oranges and mandarins hanging across the front, is an equally surprising sight. The 60-year-old Weece, a friendly, good-natured merchant who used to work as security officer “down south,” moved to Magalia in ‘91 to be with his dad. After four years of working in the Paradise Post mail room, Weece has fallen on hard times. Parked just behind the orange cart, decorated with red, white and blue ribbons and cut-out letters spelling “EXPLORER” across the front, is the R.V. he and his partner, a fellow Vietnam vet, call home.
It’s been really bad here during this rain. Before Christmas it was murder. For two or three weeks there we moved about $3,000 worth of product.
How bad has it been during the rains?
I’ve probably sold 12 [bags] since the rain started.
How’d you get into this business?
My partner and I were parked down the street for a while. We wanted to work here.
You were living in this field?
Does anyone hassle you?
We have permission to be here. The cops used to hassle us. [Now] the city hassles us. [They] keep movin’ us on.
Where do you get the oranges?
[Vollendorf Orchards] out of Oroville.
Why should people come here instead of the grocery stores up the street?
Here it’s $8 for a 10-pound bag of mandarins [$6 for oranges]. There, it’s $5-$6 for a three-pound bag. We’re a little cheaper.
Anything rhyme with orange?
Only thing I can think of is Agent Orange, from over in ‘Nam. My partner’s full of it. From ‘63 to ‘65—I was there [in the Army] for almost three years. My partner for almost 10 years.