The Hopyard Hobo - Part 7

Written by my late father (1900-1977)

Part 1 of my father's short journal told about the depression and his experiences in California. Part 2 narrated a satisfying 5 weeks living off the fat of the land on a self sufficient farm in Southern Oregon. Befriended by a Hop grower in Part 3, he was hired as a chauffeur and then offered a job in the hop fields. Dad described his first impression of life on in a Hop Yard in Part 4. His high hopes of continuing the easy chauffeur type duties were doused by a hard dose of manual labor. The teasing by his fellow crew members and the young Russian beauties are not mentioned again. I think this says much about his discretion; Dad didn't kiss and tell. Part 5 describes a Hop Yard in the 1930's with detail - just in case you wonder where your beer has its earthy beginnings. Dad became the nozzle man on the spraying crew and a raise in pay. Nora, the bosses daughter, eloped in Part 6. He didn't suggest it in any way, but I wondered if Nora was trying to force my dad to declare for her by asking him to help her. In any event, he vowed never to interfere in a love affair again.
(My brother told me recently that "Putnam" was not really their name - Dad apparently believed he should not reveal identities. I think I met a very old "Mr. Putman" once when I was a child.)

Here is Part 7.

July and half of August had passed. We had already repaired hop baskets, patched hop sa
cks, and repaired the bailor (word smeared ) for a crop which Mr. Putman said was the finest he had ever seen.

The whole Willamette Valley was seething with the influx of hop pickers. They came in dilapidated old Fords, Chevrolets, Stars, etc. Some have real houses on wheels and look prosperous in spite of the depression. They brought the whole family, even to the baby, the cat and the dog. How they can haul so much in their flivvers is a mystery to me.

Many of these pickers were city people out to enjoy a vacation, enjoying camping out of doors and making some money besides. Others are known as rubber tramps, since their life is spent mostly on the road picking apples, pears, cherries, or oranges. Still others were college students intent on making some money for the coming school year. They were ambitious to accomplish something. Many of them knew not what, but they were going to try.

The great influx of hop pickers certainly boosts trade a
nd business. The town of Independence, Oregon in normal times has twelve hundred but during the hop picking season the post office handles mail for ten to twelve thousand. Stores, show houses, and in fact everything and everybody are busy. And Dan Cupid is in the romance business in a big way. Every type of romance was represented in 1933. Some lead to jealousy and hatred, some were only short infatuations that lasted for a day or two, while others continued for the season and will be renewed again next season. Married men and women flirted with other wives and husbands. All in all, this repeal of the dry law has revived a highly romantic business - - the large scale production of hops.

Most hop growers furnish camp ground, wood, water, and tents for the pickers. Putman's camp was located along the banks of the Luck
imute River, with nice, large evergreen trees for shade and windbreak.

Pickers begin camping about a week before picking time. When the twenty-eighth of August came the campground looked like an army camp or a tent city. There were about seventy tents, with one or two automobiles to every tent. The great depression surely had taken a heavy toll. Many of these pickers had been in permanent business up to the last year or two. Now they were out chasing seasonal work, or even mythical promises of work. One wonders how they will manage much longer.

Well, here we were, on the twenty-eight of August, beginning to pick on forty acres of Early Cluster hops. Twenty-four acres of Late Cluster were not ripe yet. There were nearly 500 pickers lined up with their big wooden hampers.

Hops are measu
red by baskets, two hampers making a basket, which weighs fifty pounds. It takes a good picker to pick two hundred pounds per day. Many never pick over three baskets. Their pay is one cent per pound. After a picker boards himself there is very little money left.

But most hop pickers are happy-go-lucky people, here today, and waiting un
til tomorrow


Biker Betty said…
I am so spoiled. That sounds like such back breaking work.
Sally Lomax said…
Here today and waiting for tomorrow.... sounds like 21st century living to me!
Peter said…
Thanks for the recap of previous posts Pamela, it's been a while between "hops" so they helped.
In the fruit growing area where my sister Merle lives there is still a big influx of "pickers" even today.
~JJ! said…
THAT is a piece of history right there...Awesome. Thank you for sharing.
Mrs said…
Migrant laborers were/are a common sight in Southern California! Thanks for opening my eyes to the whole hops industry.

I seem to follow you and Chocolatechic around, so I thought I'd say hello!
What a treasure, to have this slice of (well-worded) history from your father.
DesLily said…
it's sad that so few men kept journals/ diaries like your dad did.. we tend to forget that history is being made each and every day..and it's really neat to read back with someone who lived it.
Heather said…
Okay, first, what you said on my meme post was such a wonderful compliment.
Second, what a great idea for a vacation! To camp out and pick fruit. I wonder if you can still do those sorts of things?
Karmyn R said…
Have you considered contacting Independence, OR historical society (if there is one?). They might be interested in a copy of this.
Melissa said…
I love that you have so much of your history to share. :)
Susie said…
How wonderful that your Dad journaled and preserved this piece of history!
1¢ per pound sounds like such a pittance, but I'm sure they were glad for whatever money they could earn.
We still have the migrant workers that pick all the grapes in the valley, but they have housing for them, not tents.
Beckie said…
I love these!!
kailani said…
I can't imagine living a life with no steady income. And such hard work! I sure live a spoiled life!
Amanda said…
I'm with Kar. I bet the historical society would be interested. By the way, are you and dad gonna take those binoculars to the Antiques Road show this year??
Willowtree said…
I had to look flivvers up. Just think, when I talk about a dilapidated old Ford or Chev, I'm talking about something in the 60s or 70s. Imagine what those cars he was talking about looked like!
Susie Q said…
It still amazes me that he kept such a wonderful record! Just such a precious thing to you and to preserve a piece of history. Amazing. AS always, thanks so much for sharing!
I wrote a comment on this post yesterday but it seems to have gotten lost. It is such an interesting story and makes me long to live in Oregon again. (Even though the lives of the Hops pickers was so hard - just hearing about the Willamette Valley makes me long for the trees and mountains and green.
rose said…
Thanks Pam u'r the greatest. Rose
Robin said…
Yeah, I had to go back, too, and read one I missed; usually, blog hopping time is in spurts, so longer posts "have to wait".

The way your father speaks with such simplicity engages me. He's not flowery or (I suppose) prone to exaggeration, but there's a certain beauty to his voice.

Glad you have it to share with the likes of us. And I'm with your's a great look into history and I bet someone "official" would love to take a look at it!

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