Regional History Forum “Airmail Beacons of the Columbia River Gorge” Saturday Feb 3 at Original Wasco County Courthouse

Jack M. Buce, Sr., stands next to the engine housing unit at the base of a Columbia Gorge beacon in this undated photo from the 1930’s. His granddaughter, Susan Buce, will tell of Jack’s role in maintaining the “highway of light” that guided the pilots who delivered the mail. The program takes place at the Original Courthouse Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Contributed photo.

Local historian and employee of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum Susan Buce will present the Feb. 3 Regional History Forum program at the Original Wasco County Courthouse.  She will present “Airmail Beacons of the Columbia River Gorge” at the 1859 venue, 410 W. Second Place, The Dalles.  The program begins at 1:30 p.m.

In the 1930s, the U.S. mail was taking a leap into the wild blue yonder.  Airplanes – still a relatively new technology – were not yet equipped with radar. Airmail beacons served as a Highway of Light to guide the brave pilots who flew the mail by air from coast to coast, and the stalwart “mechanicians” who maintained the beacons kept the blinking lights shining for all to see.

Susan Buce has a family tie to the airmail beacons.  Her paternal grandfather, Jack McKinley Buce Sr., was the “mechanician” for the beacons of the Columbia Gorge from 1930 to 1944. The Buce family purchased a home in Mosier in 1930 so Jack would be centrally located in his route which stretched from Portland to Pasco.  The last known surviving Columbia Gorge beacon is on exhibit at the Western Antique Aeronautic and Automobile Museum in Hood River.

This is first program in the 2018 Regional History Forum series.  There is a TV monitor on the ground floor of the 1859 courthouse to serve those unable to climb the stairs.  Coffee and cookies will be served after the program.