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Three Oregon Coast History Oddities: 'Secret' Base, Bombing, Pixie Kitchen

Published 08/30/20 at 6:41 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Three Oregon Coast History Oddities: 'Secret' Base, Bombing, Pixie Kitchen

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(Oregon Coast) – History likes to present its puzzles, and sometimes answers questions with more questions. This is definitely the case with some parts of Oregon coast history, where new stuff continues to come light, especially with three particular subjects that are a bit tucked away. Case in point: a futuristic military base in Tillamook County, two famous restaurants that are related and a WWII bombing here.

Bombing Near Brookings. While the north Oregon coast is fairly well-known for one wartime interaction with the enemy (a Japanese sub fired on Fort Stevens), the southern Oregon coast holds one striking secret. Brookings is the only place on the mainland U.S. that was bombed by a plane during World War II, a daring air raid conducted by a plane with folded wings that was launched from a submarine.

The date was September 9, 1942, and in the pilot seat was Nobuo Fujita (above). The submarine crew numbered 100. From that sub, a catapult fired his plane off into the air, where he first pinpointed Cape Blanco to lead the way. From there, he dropped two massive incendiary bombs a ways NE of town with the hopes of starting a worrisome set of forest fires. Instead, it created two small forest fires that were dealt with quickly.

All this was part of a plan to create more forest fire havoc in the states, trying to get the U.S. would leave the Pacific theater to worry about its own western coastline. That never panned out.

Instead, in a strange but touching twist, Fujita wound up becoming an honorary citizen of Brookings. In 1962, he was invited to the small town – even though some objected. He paid three more visits over the decades, dying in the late ‘90s. Though he expressed deep shame over his bombings, he became friends with Brookings’ inhabitants, and his 400-year-old sword sits on display at the local library.

Mount Hebo’s “Secret Base.” Not that it’s intentionally a secret, but it was rather unknown there was a major air force radar station at the top of Mt. Hebo for a couple of decades. The soaring north Oregon coast wonder was once the site of a sprawling, James Bond-esque set of domes and imposing-looking buildings. A product of the Cold War, it was called Mt. Hebo Air Force Station, employing about 4,000 people in Tillamook County and scanning the skies for enemy bombers – and then later missiles.

Mt. Hebo Air Force Station operated from the ‘50s through the late ‘70s, finally completely closing in 1980. It utilized dome coverings for its radar equipment because of fears that weather and winds might take out the sensitive gear. Even so, heavy winds blew off the main radome three times, including the Columbus Day Storm of 1962.

These days, nature has reclaimed all of this and there’s virtually nothing left – save for a few random chunks of mysterious concrete.

Mt. Hebo Air Force Station was out in the open and employees were a firm part of the community back then, so it was no secret. Media covered it or profiled its personnel periodically. Its existence was simply lost to time, but by the ‘90s conspiracy theorists on the net touted something they had just heard about as somehow being newly discovered state secrets.

Pixie Kitchen’s Famous N. Oregon Coast Connection. The whimsical Pixie Kitchen in Lincoln City held court over Oregon’s culinary scene from the ‘50s through the early ‘80s, and along with its zanier Pixie Land has become one of the prominent legends of the state. What isn’t well known is that it got its start up north, with a place that became uber famous on its own: the Crab Broiler. (See the Cannon Beach History Museum's piece on this)

The Crab Broiler was sort of Oregon’s stopover for the Rat Pack: the food was so good and the scene so hip it brought up celebrities from L.A. from the ‘50s through the early ‘70s. But that was different owners.

It seems the Crab Broiler was a tavern before a restaurant, and it is documented that in 1946 or just prior it was bought up by Jerry Parks and another business partner. There, Parks developed a fish ‘n chips menu that would later become the basis for Pixie Kitchen. In February of ‘46 the restaurant burned down and was razed, with Parks rebuilding.

Somewhere in here is where it gets nebulous: at some point shortly after the fire, Parks and his partner sold the business to Bill Daggatt. It’s not known exactly when, and while the Cannon Beach History Museum has plenty about Daggatt documented, they have no record of Parks as owner (though it’s documented other places, including interviews with his daughter Sharon). Parks and his family moved out of state awhile. They returned to the central coast in the early ‘50s to start up Pixie Kitchen.

Parks retained the rights to his own menu, making that arrangement with Daggatt. It’s likely Daggatt changed that menu anyway, with his Crab Broiler going on to make the scene with celebrities and becoming nationally known, and Parks’ Pixie Kitchen becoming one of the nation’s top earning restaurants in the late ‘60s.

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