2011 Pioneer Queen Phyllis Coe Long
By Phyllis Coe Long
I have greatly enjoyed my year as the Queen for the Deschutes Pioneer Association and feel like a true pioneer because my grandfather, L. D. Wiest, came to Bend in 1900. He was a civil engineer, hired by Alexander Drake, the founder of Bend, to survey the first streets for the town and also to design the canals for an irrigation system. He and my grandmother stayed and helped develop the city of Bend.
As soon as my mother, Marian Wiest, finished high school in Portland in 1902, she came to Bend to teach school. She was only 18 and some of her pupils were boys who were bigger and older than she was.
My father, M. G. Coe, came to Bend in 1906 to visit his brother, Dr. U. C. Coe, the “frontier doctor” of the Bend area. My father, who was a college-educated agriculturalist, loved the area around Bend and developed a ranch with an apple orchard and greenhouse on land near the current St. Charles Medical Center.
My mother and father were married in Bend and had three children. I was the youngest. We kids had a very happy childhood on the ranch. We sometimes climbed nearby Pilot Butte and even rode up on our horses bareback. I was always afraid I would slide off the back of the ascending horse. All of my family lived and worked in Central Oregon their entire lives and all are buried here.
Attending school in Bend was always a treat for me. I made friends with all of my schoolmates and appreciated the teachers. Sometimes I was referred to as the “teacher’s pet” but that might have been because my grandparents often had teachers rooming at their home.
At Bend High School we were fortunate to have an excellent business teacher and all of us girl students who took business courses usually got a job right out of high school without having to attend a business college first. While I was a senior, I was hired as the secretary at the first propane gas company in Bend. So, I attended Bend High in the morning and worked as a secretary for the gas company in the afternoon. I got paid wages by the gas company and received school credits for the office work I was doing. Sometime later I took a full-time job as a secretary with Hudson-Duncan, a big Portland grocery company that had a branch in Bend.
I then took a short session off work at the company to attend Redlands College in California. I later returned to Bend and sometimes worked at several different jobs in a single day. For example, I was a secretary for a Bend attorney, also for a real estate agent, and worked at the Pine Tavern.
When World War II started, I was working as a secretary at the Shevlin-Hixon mill office. With the start of the war, the American Red Cross asked for volunteers to assist in its programs. I volunteered and was sent to Washington, D. C. for a short preparatory training program and then left for Europe with four other young ladies. It was a very dramatic moment when we were in long lines with hundreds of young soldiers at the wharf in New York City one dark evening, all waiting to board the third largest ship in the world and not knowing if any of us would be coming back. But, to make a long story short, we reached England safely, where we were assigned to a general military hospital.
Even though all of the volunteers were civilians, we were with the military in military housing and lived according to military regulations. We were there to work with the military and to help our U. S. servicemen. There were registered nurses assigned to assist with the servicemen’s medical problems but we assisted with their worldly problems…and there were plenty of those. The Army hadn’t had enough time to prepare for dealing with these problems so they called on the Red Cross.
When the war ended in Europe, I was sent first to France, then to Germany to work in U. S. military hospitals because there were still many military patients waiting for transportation home. I experience many exciting, difficult, and unforgettable moments during my time in Europe. After a short vacation and a visit to Bend, I left for the Orient to continue my Red Cross work.
My first assignment was in Korea, where no one wanted to go and sometimes an assignment to Korea was considered a punishment. I agreed to go but I will say it was the worst place I have ever been. The Japanese had taken over Korea twenty years before and I thought it looked like it must have looked for hundreds of years back. There were very few conveniences. All the Korean ladies seem to look alike. They all dressed alike, combed their hair the same way, and had the same sad expression on their faces. They weren’t allowed to go out much and there were high fences around their homes so they would swing on extremely high swings in order to see what was happening on the other side of the fence.
While in South Korea, I would see lines of men carrying things on their backs and heads, walking along a path to another town so I would refer to them as “the Consolidated Freight Lines.” They had no cars, vehicles, or horses. They carried heavy loads for miles. Sometimes I would see one with a butchered head of an ox on his head, blood dripping down, or a birdcage on his head that carried chickens that were jumping around.
In Korea, I was given a very unique assignment which I had never heard of before. In Korea, life was very different for the G.I.s. There were no stores where they could purchase gifts, no restaurants where they could dine, no libraries where they could read books, no entertainments to participate in. They could neither speak nor read the language. They were not supposed to be involved with Korean girls and vice versa. Therefore, my superiors decided that I should be sent out to all of these places to help entertain the soldiers with musical entertainment since I was an accordionist. I could have anything I wanted or be any place as long as I was there to entertain with my accordion. I was taken all over the faraway spots in the Korean area where the Army had military bases. I usually stayed about two weeks before being driven or flown to a different area. I had lots of free time, saw many beautiful and interesting places, and made many new friends. However, I was usually alone and it was hard constantly going to a new place and meeting new people.
Eventually, I was assigned to an Army base near the infamous 38th Parallel where the communist troops would soon swarm over the border, attacking the South Korean troops. There was a two-story wooden house in the area and the Army assigned me the task of getting it fixed up to use as a recreation building. The weather was extremely cold with snow and ice that got so bad that sometimes I would have to crawl on my hands and knees to get safely back to my barracks. Fortunately, I was eventually re-assigned to a base in Japan. South Korea has now become a wonderful modern place with wonderful citizens.
Being in Japan was a like holiday compared to Korea. I was stationed at a huge and beautiful Japanese hospital. I had one quite unusual and unforgettable assignment when I was asked to fill in for a chaplain who was returning to the United States. He had been teaching a group of Doshisha College students. Think for a moment about the attitude of young Japanese who had grown up with the belief that their gods were invincible and so they never expected to be defeated. This created an unusual circumstance because their professor happened to be a Japanese Christian! The Army arranged for my transportation to a weekly class in this professor’s home. These interested and excited students attended faithfully and enthusiastically. Later, when I was leaving Japan, I was very impressed that they were all at the station to see me off and it was a very touching moment for me when some of these young men ran after my train as it left. They grabbed something on the side of the train and tried to hang on and ride out with me!
After I returned to Bend, I married Ed Long, who had come from Kansas and was living in Alfalfa. Ed was working for the Federal Aviation Administration then but was soon transferred to Alaska. We lived in Alaska for 15 years and three of our four children were born there. Ed was transferred to a different FAA area every three years so we saw lots of beautiful country and made many friends. Ed was transferred to Redmond in 1968 and that made me very happy because my elderly parents lived there.
Ed retired in 1970 and built a new home for us that had a view of the Cascades Mountains from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood and was only a block from the Deschutes River canyon. We kept the property until his death in 2004. We had been married more than 54 years. My children insisted I move into Redmond so, grumbling, I sold the property and lived near friends in a beautiful mobile home park which had been built by my sister. At this writing in 2011, I am well, live alone, and am still able to do many things. I never have enough time to do a lot of musical practice but I play the accordion regularly and volunteer to entertain at assisted living facilities. I am now almost 94 so I can expect, like the rest of my family, to die in Central Oregon any time now but that’s all right because I am a Christian and will be just transferring from earth to Heaven, which the Bible states is “so wonderful that no one can even imagine it.”
I want to thank you all as I have enjoyed being the Pioneer Queen of 2011. I enjoyed the experience and appreciated the privilege to get acquainted with you and I want to wish you the very best.