The Hopyard Hobo - Part 4 (Written by my late father)

In Part 1 of my father's short journal he told about the depression and his experiences in California. Part 2 told of a satisfying 5 weeks living off the fat of the land on a self sufficient farm in Southern Oregon. In Part 3, he was befriended by a Hop grower and hired , and then offered a job in the hop fields. Part 4 begins with their arrival in Portland, Oregon. Keep in mind that Prohibition had just been repealed.

After listening to Mr. Putnam and Mr. Wiseman talk breweries, beer, and hops for 275 miles I had become fascinated with hop growing, I thought how lucky I was to fall in with my new employer, for it looked as if I had a job for the spring and summer. It as also a chance to gain some valuable experience.

The next morning Mr. Putman again gave me a dollar for my breakfast and dinner and told me to do as I pleased until noon. At that time he would go to Independence, near his home. I don't suppose he knew or guessed how far a bubble chaser could stretch a dollar during the depression. Anyway, he put a lot of faith in a perfect stranger. I wasn't broke. I had enough money to last me a lifetime, provided I didn't live too long.

Mr. Putman didn't wait until afternoon to be on his way. At 10:30 a.m. he found me loafing in the lobby of the hotel. I, a hitch-hiker and drifter, must have looked out of place at ease in a good hotel.

He said, "Go to the garage and get the car. Drive around to the hotel and we will be on our way."

Hops were going up fast and he had to get out and contract with the growers as much of the 1933 crop as possible. Leaving the hotel we travelled west from Portland to Forest Grove, then south to Dallas, then east to U.S. Highway 99.

We stopped at several hop yards, but most of the growers had either already contracted them or were holding out for higher prices. Mr. Putman contracted one crop at 20 cents per pound. The price had been only 12 to 15 cents before the beer bill passed. It went to 75 cents during the month of May. The return of beer was a life saver for the hop growers.

We followed Highway 99 to Mr. Putnam's home. It was located on the Luckimute River six miles south of Independence, which is located on the banks of the Willamette River. Independence is a sort of center for the hop grower and hop worker. The community round about the city is known as one of the greatest hop producing centers in the world.

Mr. Putman had already told me that he was a family man. His wife and four children lived on his farm while he spent most of the time traveling. Two of his children, the oldest boy and the girl, were college students. The two younger ones were still in the grade schools. I had already formed a good opinion of Mr. Putnam and had taken quite a liking to him. So, I hoped also to become a friend of the family. At his home I met his wife and the younger daughter and son. His wife was a typical friendly farm woman. The daughter was a comely red-headed girl of thirteen. The boy, red-headed and freckle faced, was two or three years younger. I met the elder two later.

Soon after we arrived at the farm, Putman and I drove around the hop yard, which consists of seventy acres of Luckimute bottom land. We met his Russian foreman, John Karideff by name, and he seemed to be a likable fellow. About meal time we climbed into the car again and were off to Portland, 76 miles away.

Mr. Putman had me drive for him again the next day. He visited many hop growers, trying to buy their 1933 crop which was yet to be grown. He decided to put me to work in his hop yard so we went back to his home. When we returned I met his two older children, a girl of twenty and a boy of twenty-one. I also met three laborers, Fritz, Clarence and Micky Launer. Fritz was a caterpillar driver, commonly known as a cat skinner. The other two were common laborers, the same as I was to be, at twenty cents an hour. We had to pay seventy-five cents a day for board and lodging.

It was on April the twenty-eighth that I was initiated into my first work in a hop yard. The crew consisted of two teamsters, the foreman, two young Russian women who were sisters of the foreman, the Launers boys, and myself. Our first work was planting nursery hops, a backbreaking job done mostly by hand labor. I found later that hop yards require an enormous amount of such labor and was not as enthusiastic about it as I had been before.

I fell victim to a lot of rough kidding from the whole crew. The girls stepped rough shod on me the same as the men. They called me the "Shofer" and inquired how it felt to be demoted from driving a V-8 to planting baby hops. The hop yard develops a slang of its own the same as any other enterprise.

Well, apparently I made good with the crew. They soon stopped joking me so rough and began calling me Happy-Go-Lucky Al, which stayed with me all season. All of them were friendly and the two comely Russian girls gazed at me with smouldering black eyes which seemed to say, "Here's another victim for us." The older one was about twenty-three and the younger seventeen or eighteen.


BarnGoddess said…
75 cents a day +board, wow! I bet that was decent wages back then.

What does "Shofer" mean?

I like these journal entries.
Karmyn said…
LOVE IT!!!!!

The wild thing is - now that I've driven around Independence a few times, I've not seen any HOPS. All farmland, blueberries, and grassfields. I wonder where all the HOPS went.

We were going to take Dave's new van for a drive today - maybe I can convince him to head that way for a view.

Reading this makes my heart hurt for some reason....wish I could have known grandpa better.
Mert said…
Well, I read all four parts today, and loved it too! I agree, writing seems to run in the family :D

I really like your father's writing style, so easy going and relaxed.

I have to admit... the Russian women have piqued my interest. I can't wait to read more.
momto3cubs said…
I enjoy his writing and his stories.

Young folks today need to work a few jobs like that!
East of Oregon said…
this is great story telling of times past and real life.
Bibi said…
This was great Pam. Two weeks ago I recorded my mom recalling stories of her childhood for a project I have in mind.

Look forward to hearing more about your pop's journey ;-)
kailani said…
It's so great to hear about how things were before from someone who was actually there. He has so many great stories to share!

$1 for breakfast and dinner? Wow!
Ashley said…
that's so insane.
now, with a dollar,
i think i could get like maybe a bag of chips out of thevending machne. maybe.
swampwitch said…
It is wonderful that you have this written history from your dad. You've probably explained this, but what is it written in? What a keepsake for your children. I wonder how many people are lucky enough to have something like this. No question where your writing talent comes from
Gattina said…
Thanks for your comment ! to answer your question, my son's godmother is a fun card fan and she gets them from everywhere. So she sends all her stuff to me, but I had to ask her not to send jokes and videos anymore, because first I can't use them and second my mailbos was full, lol !
AJ said…
A mysterious...Russian woman eh?? I sure hope she stays in the story...this could get really interesting!! LOL... Pam, thank you so much for opening up your personal family story to us!
Vick said…
I like reading these
Matt said…
Naturally, I enjoyed the part about the Russian women looking to victimize your father.
wolfbaby said…
This is nothing short of amazing to me, how much history your family has. I love it and this story is definetly addictive!!
Sunrunner said…
I really enjoy reading about you grandfather's life back then. My grandparents also lived through the depression and were farmers, but were not ones to write in diaries, or write their down for the future. This gives me a good picture of life back then. Thanks!
Tracey said…
I really know nothing of hops, except that they look smashing in a vase filled with roses and peonies!
Melissa said…
What great stories Pamela! A treasure indeed.
Masago said…
"...smoldering black eyes which seemed to say, "Here's another victim for us..."

Anonymous said…
he looks sad ivy

Popular posts from this blog

Sing in Spring

An Old Cold Spot

Earth Friendly