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Forest Dispatcher Speaks in Code During War

When the Oregon State Forestry Department needed a dispatcher during World War II, it hired Frances Port Clark.  She knew of the woods and the work of rangers and fire fighters from her father, a ranger for the Crater National Forest at its station in Applegate.
The Federal Communications Commission placed strict controls on radio messages, insisting that Clark get a “restricted radio/telephone license.”  Thanks to a dispatcher in Salem who gave her lots of questions from old exams, Clark passed the licensing examination. 

In an oral history interview many years later, Clark said, “The FCC was really on our case during the war. [We were] monitored very closely because there was always the suspicion that it would be used

for, I suppose, treasonous activities, so your radio conversations were very brief and to the point.”


Dispatchers developed a code, saying, for example, “the old man needed another bale of hay,” to mean “the steelhead were running in the river,” and if someone ordered “25 pounds of onions,” during a fire, it meant “25 cartons of cigarettes.”

Clark joked she was the “Voice of…Medford” for the two years she held the dispatcher’s job.


Source: Joyner, Janet. "Oral Interview with Frances Port Clark." Oral History Interviews:Recollection: People and the Forest, Volume 2, p. 5, Rogue River National Forest, 1990’southern Oregon Digital Archives.,c=1,q=qs%3D%5Boral%20history%20Frances%20Port%20Clark%5D%2Cfield1%3D%5BHistory%5D%2CqueryType%3D%5B16%5D,sm=s,sb=0%3Acreator%3AASC,a=t. Accessed 4 Nov. 2016.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.