A slice of local life -- Flaggers Betsy and Cheryl: safety with a smile

TOGETHER in the pink: Cheryl Rohan, left, and Betsy Keith model their seasonal stocking caps. Orange signs assist their work of keeping traffic moving safely through workzones.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
TOGETHER in the pink: Cheryl Rohan, left, and Betsy Keith model their seasonal stocking caps. Orange signs assist their work of keeping traffic moving safely through workzones.

Betsy Keith and Cheryl Rohan are friends who really, really enjoy what they do.

The two are flaggers for Crestline Construction Company, which is based in The Dalles. The past couple of weeks have found them at the intersection of State and Sixth streets, directing traffic for the State Street urban renewal project. They stand out in their pink hard hats as they move traffic through with a friendly smile and wave.

“People start waving before they get to us,” said Rohan. “We’ve made a lot of good friends on jobs.”

Keith grew up in White Salmon, where she attended school before marrying husband Hank and moving to Lyle. Rohan was born in Walla Walla, Wash., and has a permanent residence in John Day, although she and husband Craig have been living “temporarily,” she said, in Lyle for the past 10 years.

Actually, what brought the Rohans to Lyle was the Keiths and Crestline Construction.

The two met 10 years ago, while living in the same RV Park in North Powder, Ore., a small town near La Grande. The Keiths were working on a job for Crestline, and Rohan for another construction company (who shall remain nameless), and they just happened to be parked next to each other.

“We hit it off immediately,” said Rohan. “And our husbands are close, too. It’s not very often you find a couple where you like both spouses.”

Rohan mentioned to Hank that, if he needed another flagger, she would be interested — the hours at her other job were hit-and-miss — and eventually he hired her on at Crestline.

Keith and Rohan are often mistaken for sisters, although they are not related. They’ve worked together for so long that each knows what the other will do just by looking at her — a helpful talent when radios go down.

“We trust each other,” explained Rohan. “She knows I will not send cars unless I am absolutely sure that I can. Betsy is the same way. I can depend on her.”

“Trust, and she loves hearing me sing,” added Keith, who is certain that Rohan appreciates her songs even though she “can’t carry a tune in a bucket.”

“We have fun out there,” Rohan said. “When Betsy and I are together, there’s no stress. We hate it when we have to flag with someone else. We’re so used to each other.”

The State and Sixth Street intersection is a high-traffic area, they said, noting that the site moves every day, as do the cones — but “the patience people have here is bar none,” said Keith.

They strive to move people through as safely and happily as possible. They make a point to wave and smile at everyone who comes through, and often get complimentary calls to the Crestline business office — they’ve turned many a bad day around with their positive natures.

There’s a reason — besides their generally cheerful demeanors — for all that waving. They want to make eye contact with everyone who comes through to make sure drivers see not only them, but the construction workers.

Keith and Rohan make a marked effort to get traffic through as quickly as possible, and will warn drivers when wait times become long. They’re also known for stopping equipment and walking drivers through the open path when extra help is needed.

“I’ve worked with quite a few flaggers, and their attitude is, ‘They can just sit or go around,’” said Keith. “I know how I feel when I’m waiting, and I will tell drivers how long the wait is so they have the option to turn around.”

“We try to warn people out of courtesy,” added Rohan. “We are very aware of our traffic and what’s going on.”

They credit the guys on the construction site for keeping them updated on wait times. “I’ve never seen a company more courteous on what’s going on,” said Rohan. “It’s a good team effort; a good working team. People comment on it.”

“We help them get where they need to go, not stop them from going,” added Keith.

Besides flagging traffic through the intersection, Keith and Rohan are the first on the job site every morning, arriving at 6:30 a.m. to set up signs and cones, and are the last to leave each evening, taking everything down. In the winter, that’s a cold post.

“I had someone say, ‘How can you smile when it’s this cold?’” Keith said. “I said, ‘It’s froze there!’”

“We appreciate the hot drinks people will bring us in the winter,” added Rohan. “It’s so sweet that people do that.”

Pink is Keith’s favorite color — “I think everything should be pink!” — and she started wearing it when she started flagging 25 years ago. “I painted my hat and didn’t get in trouble,” she laughed. Soon, everything was pink, including her sign pole.

It took her two or three years to convert Rohan into wearing a pink hat too, she said, although Rohan has yet to wear quite as much of the color as Keith.

“We’re pretty well-known for our pink hats,” Rohan added. “She’s slowly dragging me into pink.”

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



Log in to comment

Columbia Gorge news and businesses