Some time ago, one of my friends mentioned “a season of watermelons.” My first reaction was, “Is there really such a thing as a season of watermelons? Aren’t they always available? And then I remembered! During my childhood, the season of watermelons was a thing.
Previously, I mentioned the concept of “deficit” in the Soviet Union: anything, which was not available in the stores at any given moment. Anything you had to “look for,” “procure,” “get”. Which meant – most of the things.
Watermelons were grown in the Southern part of Russia, mainly in the delta of the Volga River, in the Astrakhan region. They were ready to be harvested in August-September, and that was the watermelon season. It was impossible to buy a watermelon anytime outside this timeframe.
Watermelons were not sold in the stores. Here and there, on the streets, “watermelon cages” emerged. Inside these cages, watermelons laid on the ground. Customers stayed in long lines, as in any other case of “deficit.” When your turn comes, you are allowed inside the watermelon cage, and you can walk around and pick a watermelon or two, and bring them to the scales, then pay for them and take them home.
Although my mom says that Baba Ania was not allowed to show up in our apartment on Galernaya Street, I remember that she was sometimes visiting. And one of these times was the day of the Watermelon story.
I don’t even remember staying in the line that day; most likely, we were fortunate, and the line was not that long. What I remember is that we were carrying it home, or rather Baba Ania carried it, and I was gingerly skipping alongside her. And the next thing I remember – a watermelon on the asphalt. It was ripe. It was red inside. But at least half of it was broken into small pieces.
I do not remember how Baba Ania managed to collect most of these parts. But I remember sitting in our giant kitchen, while the broken watermelon is sitting in the middle of a table in front of me. Baba Ania put some broken pieces on the saucer, and I was eating them with a spoon – a deficit should not be wasted!
Once again, there is a huge gap in the line of photos. Here are several pictures all taken one afternoon at Alexandrovskiy Park. and at the nearby Dvortsovaya Embankment. I can’t imagine what would be a specific reason for taking pictures on that day. No relation to the story, except for it’s September, a watermelon season. Most likely, about a year later than the Watermelon Story.
My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.