Hop Farming

From Lane Co Oregon

E: Do you remember the hops yard and did you ever work in them?

Crystal Fogle: Yes I do - and we mentioned the streetcar a few minutes ago - between Eugene and Springfield there were hop fields. There were also hop drying buildings - and the street car was up on trestles - and we'd come quite close to the building where they would dry the hops as we went to Eugene. I mentioned that I went picking hops once and I did quite well the first day and then the second day I got lazy and didn't pick as much and when my parents came over to help me when I was sitting down and my father told me if I were going to do something to work at it, to not stop, so I didn't get to go back the third day. But in years later I kept books for one or two summers in the hop fields. The hops were grown and trained on wires and people would pick the hops and they would have a certain container fastened to their bodies and they would strip the hops off of the vines trying to get as few leaves as they could. Then they would empty these containers into large sacks, tie up the sacks. Then weighers would come along with a tripod and scales and they would hang the sacks up on these scales and weigh them and they were paid one cent a pound. Then in later years, if a hop picker stayed the whole season, they would be paid a bonus. Some people would camp at the hop fields and some people would drive each day.

E: What was it like to camp in the hop fields?

Crystal Fogle: Oh, it was dirty and people would camp in tents and do their own cooking but that was a way for families to make money during the summertime.

E: Did they have social life around them?

Crystal Fogle: Oh yes, they'd sing and occasionally they would have some sort of dance or something to wind up the season but I didn't take part in that because we didn't camp out. Mother went one or two years to pick, too. A person could earn a little bit extra.

E: How much did they get paid?

Crystal Fogle: Just a cent a pound. The hops of course were to make beer and near beer.

E: How long would it take to pick a pound?

Crystal Fogle: Some people could earn four to six dollars a day but I never was a very good picker and I would work too slowly and be too particular to keep the leaves out. Quite often the fastest pickers were the dirtiest pickers.

E: Where were the fields and how big were they and who owned them?

Crystal Fogle: North of Springfield across the McKenzie River was the Seavey hop yards. And west of Springfield on the way to Eugene - the name escapes me now - but there was a hop field not far from the street car trestle. And then south of Springfield there was another Seavey hop yard.

E: The Seavey's were good friends of your family?

Crystal Fogle: Yes, Jess and Molly Seavey. And then there was John Seavey who had a hop field south of Springfield, not too far from Goshen.

E: And did the people who owned the fields, like the Seaveys, did they produce the beer or what happened?

Crystal Fogle: No, they would have the hops dried and the hops would be sold to the distillers and that used to be quite an industry like up around Salem and Independence. They're hop yards, too. But we don't see many more.

E: Was beer being made in Springfield from the hops?

Crystal: Not that I know of. The name that comes to mind was Weinhard beer. So they could be the ones who processed the beer.

E: And when you picked the hops, how was it transported to the drying places?

Crystal: They would have a flat truck with horses and these sacks would be piled on these flat trucks and taken to the hop drier.

E: And how did the hop drier work?

Crystal: I'm sure they must have used wood heat. They would spread out the hops and the heat would dry them.

E: Were there any fires that you remember?

Crystal: I suppose there were but none come to mind. These buildings were usually two story buildings. I don't remember ever being in one but I suppose they would dry hops the way they dry walnuts and prunes and other agriculture products in this area.

E: How close was the hops field near your house that you went to?

Crystal: I judge five or six miles would be the Seavey hop yard and the other one would be two and a half miles.

E: So when you went by yourself, how would you get there?

Crystal: It seems to me that someone took me in a car. My parents were quite particular when I was little. They didn't like to turn me loose. So it must have been someone my parents knew.

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