Hops, Grand Ronde, lake berries, and humor


Ad in the Salem Daily Capital Journal of September 2, 1919, page 8, columns 6 and 7

Linguistic archaeology means thinking twice, no doubt.

Several times previously, I’d read the 1941 conversation between spouses Hattie and John B. Hudson that’s presented as Text 2 “The Road is Different Now” in the Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary of Chinuk Wawa (CTGR 2012:385-386).

Just recently, as I’ve been writing a few pieces about Indians and hops-picking, I saw it with new eyes.

For one thing, Hattie (“HH”) and John (“JH”) mention that their daughter Velma is away working at a hopyard. That’s a reference that we need to put into our mix here.

But also, as the dictionary notes, Hattie makes a joke in Jargon contrasting Velma’s current work with her own current location near a historically important “lake-berry” harvesting place. Lake berries, we’re told, were a major reason for early-day Native people to travel to the Ocean Lake area.

I’ve had no success locating uses of a term “lake berries” in local or regional English, but “lake” was actually borrowed into Chinuk Wawa as a commonly used word leyk.  (See page 278 of the Grand Ronde dictionary, as well as its occurrence in Kamloops Chinuk Wawa and its further borrowing into Lower Chehalis Salish.)

So Hattie’s “Lakebrook úlali” pun below, quite likely, would indirectly indicate a Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa noun leyk-ulali, which we can add to our dictionaries.

Here is the relevant section of the conversation, as given on page 386 with line numbers in the conversation indicated:

[JH21]     x̣lúyma álta uk-‘íliʔi.
The country is different now.  

(Vincent Mercier [grandson]: Where’s Velma? Where’s Velma? Where’s Velma?)

HH22)     [‘álta] nayka píck ah, Lakebrook úlali.
So now I’m picking “Lakebrook berries”! [footnote]

(Vincent Mercier: Velma’s at the hopyard?)

HH23)     ahá, Velma’s at the hopyard ya.
Yes, Velma’s at the hopyard she is.

[footnote:] HH appears to be punning on lake-berries, relevant to the conversation’s original focus on early travel to lower Salmon River […] and the name Lakebrook, which according to EP was the name of the hopyard where Velma (Velma Mercier, another Hudson daughter) was most likely picking hops at the time. Humorous intent is suggested by HH’s audible laughter following this line.

The Lakebrook area is indeed a known hops-growing center of the era. It’s remembered in this poem from Grand Ronde. One hopyard, Lake Brook Hops Ranch, even put out its own small typewritten newspaper, “The Hop Vine Scratch”, for the pickers. You can read it, with all of its anecdotes of fun times for the hardworking pickers, at this website.

What do you think of all this?