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What’s a Hallock?

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As an almanac editor and Philom., from time to time I get asked a question that I can’t answer. Here is one from B.D. located in Oregon. Apparently, several people, in her office were looking for the meaning of a word. Read below.

Back in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s we pick strawberries and put them in hallecks [sic] but cannot find that word in a dictionary or even a close definition. It was the word of the day at work and most staff haven’t a clue. Can you help? I may have the spelling wrong, but have tried haleck, halleck, hellack, hellack, etc.

I thought this would be a slam-dunk by asking my 85-year-old mother. She worked on the almanac for 40 years and was around in the decades in question. She didn’t know and asked her 90+-year-old group.

Our best guess is that it may be a regional term maybe something from the West Coast. Does anyone have an answer to the meaning of the word hallock?? If so, pass it along!

(Continued Below)

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23 comments

1 D. Fenimore { 03.27.18 at 10:58 pm }

My two brothers and I began early as pickers. First we picked strawberries. The idea was to earn money for school clothes. I think it was to get us out of the house. It was a very good experience. We knew the end of us if we woke up mom, so we got our selves ready in profound silence before dawn. That meant making breakfast and lunch, cleaning up, and strapping lunch to ourselves so we could bike to the field. We got there as early as possible so we could get the best rows before the field bosses arrived. We drove in the dark through sheet fog in the cold. No lights. As soon as we could tell ripe from green berries we got started with the object being to get far enough up the row that it couldn’t be taken away. Field bosses like to be in charge. It always worked. We always got scolded, but i think they liked the enthusiasm and never took the rows because then they were used and no one wanted to start a used row and risk having to clean up. I raced my older brother and he effortlessly beat me almost every time. We picked into carriers full of hallocks in some fields, and full flats at others. It was an olympic feat those days when we exceeded 20 flats each. I tried everything I could to outpick my brother. We were paid by the flat at most places but the more fair system was by the pound. Sometimes we were rained out. We were never roasted out. there were gray days, misty days, and cold to swelter days. Field bosses were good people, usually middle aged women who could smoke, eat pastry, drink coffee, talk, and chew gum all at once. Or they’d wet the cig and stick it to their lips and talk with it flipping all over the place till it was time to light it up. Then it was just that and pastry and coffee. We got paid hundreds of dollars all at once at the end of the picking season. Riding the bus was to be avoided. It got there late, left early, and half the time someone stole desert out of the lunches. The outhouses were stench and fly respites where you would only go if you really had to go.Plywood doors with a spring. The lock was a bit of wood that turned. While picking you could kneel and push the carrier, straddle the row while bent over it, or kneel straddle with knee on one side and a bent leg on the other. Rocks under knee! If they’d irrigated, it was muck. There were daddy long leg spiders. Always. I always hoped I’d find an arrow head in the dirt, but that didn’t happen till the bean fields. Hallocks were also used with raspberries, but raspberries could only be picked in half the quantities. My best day was ten flats. Best in strawberries was 23. Kids today are missing something valuable by the regulations.

2 Pat Aho { 09.30.17 at 3:15 pm }

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/HALLOCK/2012-02/1328186406
Company was early makers of strawberry boxes.

3 Susie McLean Deagle { 08.08.17 at 9:49 pm }

I grew up in Aloha, Oregon and picked strawberries in the 50s and early 60s in Hillsboro and Forest Grove. My mom was a field boss, so I had to go picking every day, no matter what. We all rode the berry bus. My memories are so like the ones people have shared: the rickety berry bus, the can of pop wrapped in aluminum foil (which did little to keep it cold), drinking water out of those little paper cups, getting up at the crack of dawn…I hated that the most, and still to this day, when I wake up early on a summer morning I immediately think of berry picking. I can remember the smell of the air and the smell of the berry fields. I was a terrible berry picker and I made very little money…where my older sister (6 years my senior) was an incredibly fast picker and would race my brother to see who could pick the most. She would be top picker on most days. I had no interest in participating in that contest! I can just see those thin wooden hallocks, filling up SO slowly, and the flats that we lugged up to be weighed. Remember the half flats that had a wooden handle over the top? It’s cool to know calling the boxes “hallocks” seems to be a local phenomenon. Berry picking was dirty work and I hated being hot, so I was pretty miserable most of the time. Still, I wish my own kids had had the opportunity to experience that kind of hard work. It did make me realize that not everything was easy, even for the “spoiled baby sister” of 5 kids. I remember my mom, in her long-sleeved white shirt, checking the rows to see if they were picked clean. She was such a hard worker, and never complained. I did plenty of complaining….believe me! But I wouldn’t trade those summer memories for anything.

4 Sue Spengler { 07.31.17 at 1:27 pm }

Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I, too, found my way here because I was looking for the correct spelling for the word hallock. So many memories that we share… the early morning bus rides, the feel of wet bushes in the morning, the heat of the afternoon. I’d like to add one more: my deep respect for immigrants, I believe, stems from my experience working beside the Mexicans and Russians on those farms. They picked at least 3 flats for every 1 that we picked as kids, and usually more! I didn’t appreciate it at the time, however, because, well, I was 12 and in my own little world of earning some pocket money for school clothes. It is only later that these early experiences come to fruition. Other memories include sitting in the shade of a tree with friends eating lunch, stopping at the little country store on the way home and buying a coke (still the best-tasting cokes I’ve ever had, after a hard day’s work with money you earned yourself), strawberry fights, and the slowly moving flags that showed your progress in the row. Every strawberry I eat today is imbued with those farm memories. I’m so grateful for them. It’s so nice to find others who share some of those memories.

5 WTS { 02.16.17 at 12:28 pm }

The correct spelling is “hallock” as the word comes, like Kleenex for tissue, from a brand or company name. Apparently the actual square, supposed to be around a pint, box was trademarked by a “Hallock”. So most directly, “hallock” should mean “pint” or about a pint as a measurement. Alternatively, as it is most often used, it refers to a partition of/on a flat. The word and definition may be somewhat regional and archaic, but education and use determine the life of words. Use it more and it will gain traction as people learn it. If people can make up words that add nothing to the language because words with the same meaning already existed, a word with a specific and functional meaning certainly has a place too.

I picked berries in the PNW in the 70’s. I also agree with most of the other posters here, as hard as the work was it is a shame children are prohibited from the experience now. At the time, I wasn’t much of a fan of getting up at 3am to spend all day working in cold damp mornings that turned into hot dusty days. The work ethic it gave has made me a stand out employee everywhere I have worked. Childhood is a time to learn, grow, and experience. The work/reward lessons are irreplaceable. The more you produced, the more you earned. I was terrible at it, and I ate so many that I have no interest in strawberries to this day (40+ years later). Maybe that’s why it was banned, growers got tired of seeing the labor force never become customers!

6 Kathy Warnock { 11.18.16 at 6:31 pm }

My 34-year-old daughter is seeking to reduce her plastic footprint and questioning me about the pre-plastic era. — how food was packaged and carried, etc. — and in thinking it through, I remembered hallocks. Later hallocks were plastic, but Ted Harrison describes perfectly how the older ones were made. We were careful and re-used them as well as the wooden flats. This is an awesome post with great comments!
Kathy (Class of ’67)

7 Jackie { 11.12.16 at 9:33 pm }

During the 70’s & 80’s, again in Oregon, berry pickers were paid and spoke of their work done that day in terms of crates and hallocks.

The hallocks were the cubbies that the crates were divided into. I’m not positive but I think they were 20 or maybe 25 in each crate.

They would punch your card and at the end of the week you would be paid by the punches on the card. For a while it was cash then regulations made it a check.

8 Margaret Owen Thorpe { 10.07.16 at 3:36 pm }

I came to this page to find out what a “hallock” is – or was – because I found one in the inventory of my great-great grandfather’s estate, from 1832 Missouri. Yes, they would have needed something in which to pick berries as they were on the Missouri River. It’s possible the word took root on the west coast, as his sons all went to California or Oregon. Note that it was spelled “hallock” in 1832.

9 Curt { 06.28.15 at 1:32 am }

The proper spelling is “hallock”, a name applied from that of the company that orginally produced the small wooden baskets in the middle 1800s (Hallock of New York). Hallocks were held in a “flat” of berries (a flat usually weighed 20-25 lbs) and we (Oregon kids in the late 50s/early 60s) were paid by the pound even though we had punch cards that got punched for each flat we took to the field boss (poundage was recorded on the back of the card as I recall).

10 Alan Carr { 08.11.14 at 12:21 am }

Hallocks as I remember from my youth were small wooden boxes that could hold either a pint or quart . They were made with two thin pieces of wood that were bent in thirds with a sharp corner. When one is placed at 90 degrees and nested together then fastened at the top with a thin metal that clamped the top edge. Today most farms use a paper hallock that fits 12 pints to a flat box. They are made in 1/2 pint, pint and quart sizes. I have seen a box co. in Texas still makes wooden hallocks but with a wooden band on top. Good luck.

11 john coila { 07.18.14 at 6:53 pm }

I’,m trying to find a supplier for wooden strawberry hallocks. If anyone , anywhere knows of a supplier, please e mail me at w.john.coila@gmail,com

12 Nancy Chiodo { 03.09.14 at 3:35 am }

I grew up in Gresham, OR on a berry farm. My grandfather had the land, purchased from William Shattuck, a pioneer. I still have an old level that my dad found out in the field. The name “James Shattuck” is carved into it. We picked raspberries every summer. The crates were placed inside of an old, rickety wooden carrier with legs. These were cannery crates, not market crates and they held 12 huge hallocks (this is the correct spelling). We also used plastic or wooden “belly busters” that we tied around our waists. When they got full we would dump the berries into the crate. Every season, many members of NA tribes would come out to help with the harvest and stay for the season. They would pick and put the berries in their beautifully-woven baskets, some of which actually held an entire crate of berries! My dad would get upset because this practice would mush the berries and he would get docked at the cannery if they saw the juice dripping out. We had a fruit and vegetable stand, too. The general sale price for five boxes of raspberries was 5 for a dollar. These were the market-sized boxes.

13 M. Gilmore { 03.06.14 at 1:04 am }

I also grew up in Portland in the 50s. I remember getting woken up as a little kid incredibly early to catch a bus to the strawberry fields. We’d pick strawberries all day (it would be called child abuse now) and got paid 5 cents per hallock. 6 to a flat. They’d punch my card every time I turned in a flat to the guys on the truck. It was backbreaking, dirty work and it was great. I got spending money and learned the value of a days work for wages. I was in my 30s before I could eat strawberries again though. After that I got a paper route delivering the Oregonian. 1 cent per paper. Good times.

14 M H Ellet { 01.15.14 at 8:26 pm }

I also grew up in Portland, Oregon in the ’50s & picked strawberries. I went looking for the word halleck (?) and found this discussion. Thanks. Oh, we earned 5 cents per halleck.

15 Gaylene { 09.02.13 at 1:21 pm }

Wow, cool find. I came upon this discussion because I am looking to buy some HALLOCKS! (hallecks?) I have blueberry bushes now and a butt-load of old hallocks, but wanted some fresh, new ones. I can’t find any!

I “say” I picked strawberries in my uncle’s fields when I was a little kid (I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian from Helvetia), but more than picking, I played with the little one-wheeled carts that were used to wheel the flats from the rows to the truck. I must have been six or seven years old, and soon after that the law was adopted that didn’t allow kids to pick berries (boy, was I happy!)

Anyhoo, it was nice to read from fellow Oregonians. I think I may have to give up on my search…

16 J Penrose { 08.24.13 at 5:13 pm }

Dan’s message gave me more than I needed to know. What a kick to read all the memories of Oregon berry pickers. started with search for “halleck” because I used the word recently while buying berries at a local farmers market. My days of picking in Washington County (Tigard) are we’re 1950-1956. I am glad to know the correct spelling. My iPhone resists letting me enter hallock.

I still have three wooden “carriers” that held the six hallocks of berries. Our family farm included several acres of Willamette raspberries to be picked by our family and friends. Chandler cannery provided us with pre cut wood pieces to create carriers. We sat around in winter nailing pieces together. Today as an urban gardener in Seattle’s community garden program. I use them to carry gardening supplies, fresh produce and tools. The rare person who once picked in berry fields recognizes them.

17 Ron Knori { 06.24.12 at 4:24 pm }

I agree with Ted. My sister and I both picked strawberries for my uncles in Mount Angel, Oregon in the 50’s and 60’s. I can remember the sunburns and sore knees,fingers,and back from picking them. We also picked thornless evergreens, boysenberries,loganberries, and some others I can’t even remember 😉 When I tell my wife that they were put into hallecks, she thinks I’m nuts. LOL But it was 6 in a carrier, 2 carriers to a flat. I remember riding with my uncle to Woodburn to the Smucker’s plant and unloading them. I have to force myself to even eat a strawberry nowadays. LOL

18 Dan { 06.04.12 at 12:17 pm }
19 janna bestul { 03.31.12 at 2:00 pm }

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/HALLOCK/2012-02/1328186406

found this during a recent search. my husband just came home with about 60 unused cardboard hallacks and a couple of crates he got from a garage sale. we were surprised to find that the common word for us for this little box is obsolete. we both picked berries in the summer in oregon when we were growing up. we get competitive when we talk about how many flats of berries we would pick in a day and reminisce about what we did with our summer earnings to reward ourselves for all our hard work. kind of sad that kids today don’t get to experience the satisfaction that comes from that kind of work.

i’m looking forward to picking berries with my grandkids this summer – filling my hallacks with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries and more!

20 Ted Harrison { 08.07.09 at 6:49 pm }

I picked strawberries in Oregon in the 60’s, too. I found this site as I was looking for the proper spelling for the word, and I’m guessing it’s “halleck.” Anyway, they are/were made of very thin, square planks of wood, and held together with a square metal wire around the top and perhaps the bottom. They were replaced with the green plastic containers now used with strawberries. I was paid 5 cents a halleck. Carriers were made of regular wood and carried six hallecks. The wood at each end of the halleck continues up and is connected to one wooden rod that makes it handy for carrying in one hand. A flat or crate was comprised of 12 hallecks but didn’t have any handle, so both hands had to be used to carry it.

21 Karen Bryant Bastion { 07.09.09 at 2:50 pm }

I must have picked at the wrong field. I think I was paid 5 cents of a Halleck and it took 12 to make a carrier and 24 for a flat…Have I lost it. Monmouth,Indepence Oregon. Central class of 1959!!!

22 Kerry Hazelett { 05.05.09 at 8:04 pm }

One other detail, as I remember, there were nine hallecks to a “flat”. A “flat” was a wooden low-edged box with a single wooden bar handle. It took a little kid quite a lot of work in the hot sun to fill a flat!

23 Kerry Hazelett { 05.05.09 at 7:54 pm }

I came across your inquiry by accident trying to look up the correct spelling for the little square-topped open basket that we called a “halleck” (pronounced like a man’s name, “Hal,” plus, “eck”). In attempting to look up the word, I tried different spellings just as B.D. did, and came up with nothing. I was a little shocked to know I am old enough to see the total extinction of a word–not just extinction but obliteration. Here’s the deal, I am from Oregon also, and as a kid in the 50’s, used to pick strawberries for summer money. I remember being paid $0.20-$0.25 per halleck (but I may have that wrong). Hallecks are still used occasionally but they were a standard at the time. I am glad I came across your inquiry because I started thinking I made up the term! Any strawberry farmer in Oregon should know the answer to your question, but I am willing to guess the correct spelling is/was, “halleck.”

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