, Newburyport, MA


June 27, 2013

Steeped in tradition

Church's 'Strawberry Ladies' have a long history with Amesbury Days


Originally, there were also plans to hold a new “Sadie Hawkins” Road Race that would culminate at the farmers market. But organizers decided to hold off on that until November, when Sadie Hawkins Day, a creation of Amesbury comic strip artist Al Capp, is typically celebrated.

At its core, Amesbury Days is a celebration of community pride and a time when locals of all stripes can come together. That sense of togetherness is the main reason why volunteers like the “Strawberry Ladies” keep coming back, and why a few have been helping for nearly 40 years.

“Part of it is working with the rest of the women, having that camaraderie,” said Bertina Lawliss, who is 83 and has been helping hull strawberries for the Main Street Congregational Church since the early 1970s.

Gladys Turnquist, who at 99 is the elder statesman of the Strawberry Ladies, agreed with Lawliss, saying she first started helping because she wanted to get involved with her church and has kept coming back since because she loves the company. She also joked that getting to eat some of the strawberries is a nice bonus, too.

On Tuesday, both Lawliss and Turnquist were back again with the rest of their friends, each with their sleeves pulled up and an ever-growing pile of fresh fruit on the table in front of them. Others just like them surrounded them at the two tables. Throughout the morning, they all laughed, told stories and reminisced about the days they used to actually go up to New Hampshire and pick the strawberries.

“There was a gentleman who drove a pickup trick, and some kids would pile up into the back of the truck, you can’t really do that anymore,” Lawliss said. “They’d drive to New Hampshire, we’d follow in cars, and when we got there, we’d fill the whole truck bed with strawberries.”

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