If you go

What: “Legendary Locals of Bend” book reading by author Les Joslin

Where: McMenamins Old St. Francis School, 700 NW Bond St., Bend

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

When local author Les Joslin embarked on the research for his latest book, “Legendary Locals of Bend,” he encountered a conundrum.

How do you whittle down countless Bendites — past and present — to a 120-person roster that would fit within a brewpub?

Don’t make it comprehensive.

This way, Joslin, 73, was free to explore the lives and contributions of the Bendites of his choosing.

“There are so many people you could include,” he said. “You want to look for some sort of balance between then and now, male and female, and so forth and so on.” Another criterion that made the selection easier: They had to qualify as “Bend people — not Bend-born, but their most significant achievements were directly tied to Bend,” he said.

Joslin will read from “Legendary Locals of Bend” — released in January by Arcadia Publishing — Tuesday at McMenamins Old St. Francis School.

The book’s chapters break down Bendites into a sort of chronological, socio-economic totem pole. From top to bottom, people are categorized by the work they did, and for whom. The first chapter focuses on the first Euro-Americans in the area — the explorers, pioneers and settlers. Next come the founders, builders and developers. Subsequent chapters chronicle the politicians and public servants, the business professionals and entrepreneurs, and the doctors and lawyers. Later follow the preachers and teachers, lumbermen and foresters, soldiers, athletes and artists. Joslin said the order is intuitive.

Prior to Bend, “you have to find the country and explore it before you can found a city and develop the area. Who are the people who play roles in this? Politicians and public servants. And they make the world safe for the capitalists,” he said with a wink.

Alongside power brokers like Bend founder Alexander M. Drake; trapper and trader Peter Skene Ogden; and George Palmer Putnam, the publishing scion who once owned and edited The Bulletin, lesser known Bendites get equal space on a page.

Veterans of war

In a black-and-white photo, Helen Marie Skjersaa, whose family members were early promoters of winter sports in Bend, stands proudly before one of the airplanes she ferried domestically during World War II as a member of the Women’s Air Service. “They did great work, but they weren’t considered veterans when they finished their service,” Joslin said.

Leon Devereaux is another local WWII aviator who made good. During an air battle near Japan, Devereaux shot down a Japanese fighter that was stalking a string of American planes returning to their U.S. aircraft carrier. However, in landing, Devereaux wrecked his plane. Admiral John S. McCain — the grandfather of John McCain, the Arizona senator, and the carrier’s commander — ordered the young Bendite to the flag bridge. “That’s one for one, eh, Devereaux?” McCain said. That was as close an admiral would get to saying: “‘Hey, kid, thanks for saving our ship,’” Joslin said. Devereaux later became mayor of Bend when the city’s population was 13,000. He is now 92.

Tragic end

Tucked between these tales of success and perseverance are those people whose legacies are marred by tragedy. Frank T. Johns, a Portland-based presidential candidate running on the Socialist Labor Party ticket in 1928, began his campaign in Bend.

While stumping before an audience in Drake Park, he heard the cries of a boy drowning in the nearby Deschutes River. Johns abandoned his speech and leapt into the water to save the boy. They both drowned.

Empty celebrity

Joslin includes Marshall Clay Awbrey, but only to call him a “pioneer name-dropper.” “He moved here, but he didn’t do anything,” Joslin said. A lot of things were named for him, however, including a butte, glen, mountain and road. “His name got applied to things for no apparent reason. I could not find out why,” he said.


Familiar to locals and tourists alike, Arcadia publishes locale-themed books according to several genres. Its sepia-toned “Images of America” series features tomes devoted to 214 neighborhoods, towns and cities across the country. Joslin is responsible for bringing the 2009 edition “Images of America: Bend” to fruition. Then president of the Deschutes County Historical Society, Joslin revised a previous book the organization had compiled to fit Arcadia’s criteria.

Arcadia authors abide by a predetermined book template they “fill with facts and concepts,” Joslin said. The format requires three to 10 chapters — “no more, no less” — that the author can organize however is suitable. No more than 350 words may accompany a photograph. Such requirements, which Joslin found alternately fun and challenging, kept him “straight and honest.” Joslin learned to write concisely as a Navy intelligence officer.

“There were rules: You cannot give the president more than half a page. Of course, I never gave him it directly,” he said of his three-year stint in Washington, D.C. “It gets polished by the big boys on its way up. You learn to be succinct.”

Most of the photographs featured in “Legendary Locals of Bend” came from the Deschutes County Historical Society, whose archives have been enriched by The Bulletin’s donation of photographs — “boxes of them,” Joslin said — dating to the newspaper’s 1903 founding. Other photos came courtesy of Central Oregon Community College and the subjects’ familial archives.

Beyond the page

Joslin said many people he features in “Legendary Locals” have interesting stories that extend beyond the pages of this book — particularly John Riis. His father, Jacob Riis, was a Danish-American journalist. His book, “How the Other Half Lives,” documented lower Manhattan’s squalid tenement conditions and inspired modern building codes. It also catapulted Riis, who was a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt, to international fame. His young son John, however, concerned with forging his own legacy, escaped his father’s shadow in the Cascades, where he worked as a U.S. Forest Service ranger from 1907-13. Riis detailed his adventures in the 1937 book “Ranger Trails,” which Joslin reprinted in 2008.

“John Riis is one of my favorite people,” said Joslin, who worked nearly 20 years as a U.S. Forest Service ranger.

A restless retirement

Retired from forestry, the Navy and teaching positions at COCC and Oregon State University, Joslin has brought 11 books to the public, most of which he’s dedicated to the woody wilderness of Central Oregon. He also edits “Old Smokeys Newsletter,” which the Pacific Northwest Forest Service Association publishes quarterly.

Joslin, who moved to Central Oregon in 1988, remains mum about future book projects.

When he works on books, Joslin explained, he only likes to talk about them with those in his inner circle.

“Lots of people are ‘gonna write a book,’ but most of them don’t,” he said. “I never want to be in that category.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7816, pmadsen@bendbulletin.com