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Secretary Trades Her Pay for Flying Lessons

One of the first women pilots to get a private pilot's license after World War II, 19-year-old Connie McCoy, lived in Lane County, Ore.

As a teenager during the war, she ran some of the equipment at her grandfather’s sawmill east of Cottage Grove. Her love of flying began when she was 17 and got a job as a secretary at the Walker Airport about three miles southwest of Creswell, Ore.

For two years she traded her pay for flying lessons.  During that time she met an aircraft mechanic, Clifford Van Prooyen, and they married in 1948. Together they bought the B&H Flying Service and Walker Field, operating them between 1952 and 1959.

McCoy’s son, Harold, remembered several occasions when he and his parents went to the airport at night to illuminate the field for a landing.  They used high-beam lights from their vehicles parked at either end of the runway to light up the landing strip for the pilot.

McCoy continued flying until she quit in 1961 to raise her family.

Sources: Brew, Jo. Oregon's Main Street: U.S. Highway 99 "The Stories". Lorane, Ore.: Groundwaters Publishing, LLC, 2013. 155-58. Print. Internet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walker_Airport

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Emily Blakely has published poetry and prose, and frequently displayed framed works at the Umpqua Valley Arts Center as well as restaurants and libraries in the area. Her interest in writing for JPR’s "As It Was" program came from hearing Kernan Turner speak at her writer’s group meeting, and she has found it to be beneficial in developing her writing skill. Researching local history has become one of her favorite pastimes.