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What is Hol-Ry?

A Hol-Ry box that survived to 1997 is shown off by Joe Mattson, base staffer. Adam Alsobrook discovered the cracker box in the kitchen at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, TX.

Hol-Ry is the hailing sign for voyageurs of the Northern Tier's Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base. When a voyageur encounters another on the trail, it is customary for one to address the other with "Hol-Ry" and the other to respond with "Red-Eye".

The origin of this greeting hearkens to the 50's and 60's when Charlie crews carried a rye cracker with the tradename Hol-Ry. The cracker was baked by the Zinsmaster bakery in Duluth, Minnesota. Hol-Ry was a cracker that didn't break or spoil easily, and for trail food, this is important. The taste of Hol-Ry was rather nondescript, but it made a very good vehicle for delivering peanut butter and jelly at lunchtime. The term Red-eye comes from the noonday drink of the early loggers in the area. For decades, Charlie crews have used the same term for their lunch drink.

In the context of a canoe trip, the exchange of greetings is often spoken as voyageurs encounter each other on a portage trail, and its meaning is kind of a "Hey, how you doin'?" followed by a "OK- no problems". It is usually spoken in a normal speaking tone, and in the spirit of the wilderness experience. For many people, the spell of the wilderness can be suspended by unnecessary contact with others, and we respect this by not making more contact than necessary.

If you hear somebody yell Hol-Ry! from across the lake, there is a more urgent message. Either someone is hurt, or for some other reason, needs our assistance. In this case, we respond with Red-Eye! and it means "I heard you and I'm on my way."

In recent years, we have begun to hear these terms used off the trail, and their meaning in a group of noisy people seems to be "shut up!" or maybe "please quiet down". Some of us old-timers would like to save the high-volume version of hol-ry and red-eye for emergency use on the trail. Come to think of it, we would also rather be on the trail than in a group of noisy people!

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