The only rice factory in Phoenix was across from the ball field. Sase Naraine was the guy in charge, a tall slender dark-skinned man with a bit of curls at the front of his head. He was a tough guy but the two brothers who actually owned the factory were more compassionate if I remember correctly.
This factory provided employment for a limited number of people. I remember during my elementary school we were taken to this factory on a field trip to see how rice is made. It was interesting. Rice fields were found all over Phoenix and Louisiana. It was a summer job for many of us kids who wanted to make a small piece. I used to go with my mom to the cane field on Saturdays and take maybe a half acre to cut for myself. My mom used to cut sometimes two and half acres. She was a very hard working lady and was skilled in this work. Half acre may sound like a little thing but when that midday sun hit and there is still a lot more to cut it used to be very daunting. Collecting the money used to be sweet.
We had to cut the rice and tied them up into bundles and put them to stand up. Then these will be carted off to the be thrashed so that the paddy is shelled from the stalk and then that was taken to the factories to be soaked and them spread out of the concrete to dry off. People were hired to turn the paddy intermittently before it is finally processed and polished in the mill. We got parboiled and white rice. Today we know it is much better to eat brown rather than white rice. Back then no one wanted to see brown rice. We liked it nice and white.
I guess today combines cut all the rice and processing might be all automated.
There were two other factories in the area – one in Blenheim – Khan’s and the other was across from Success School. I remember I was in the same class with Rookmin – her dad was one of the owners of the factory across from school. One of the brothers also had a store exactly across from the school where we used to run over to buy sweetie. Khan’s factory was the largest and he was perhaps the richest guy in the area. He owned all the farm lands down by Phoenix which after a lot of haggling, he leased to people for maybe a hundred year. These people were regular entrepreneurs – who exploited poor people by getting them to clear the land, pay them a fee to use the land and after it was nice and clear they would come and take the land away. I know at one time people were getting really mad with Khan and the village had a meeting and they got to stay on the land for a little longer. The memory is all fading but I distinctly know that many people were upset with the Khans.
One of their sons was in my class I remember when one of the girls died very young because of a burst appendix. That was pretty sad. The Khans lived in a colonial styled house that was very nice. I remember there was a green curved awning. The children lived a charmed life but I remember that they were nice kids, not arrogant or anything like that.