In the center of the Civil War

Driving on Oregon Route 99W into Monroe, coming from either direction the closer one gets to OSU and UO the more school paraphernalia is displayed.

Richard Steeves News Editor

Monroe, Oregon is in the middle of the only road running through both Eugene and Corvallis

Andy Griffith and Barney Fife were never asked to take sides.

The residents of the small town of Monroe, Oregon population 680 live in a what could be called a town divided. With the 120th Civil War approaching people across the state of Oregon are choosing sides. In Monroe , however,  choosing sides is a little more difficult. 

Monroe is located almost exactly between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University on the only road, Oregon Route 99W that runs through both Eugene and Corvallis.

Traveling north or south on 99W each university’s presence grows stronger the closer one gets to each school, via the Ducks and Beavers gear adorning people’s lawns, houses and mailboxes. 

 It only takes a few minutes to drive through the town and as the saying goes, “if you blink you might miss it.”

The library is located on the north side of town and according to Community Library Specialists Allison Gavin and Lori Pelkey, it is the social hub of Monroe. Both view the town’s location as a unique opportunity for its

residents and students.

“It’s pretty fun, you get to be a platypus and root for both sides,” Gavin said.

“We are so in the middle you can easily go either way,” added Pelkey. “Kids have an opportunity to visit both schools.”

In a town where Gavin and Pelkey say everybody knows everybody, they choose sides when the Ducks and Beavers play each other. Even though Gavin’s daughter attended UO, she roots for the Beavs. Pelkey, on the other hand, roots for the Ducks. In years past they have celebrated the Civil War by dressing up, Gavin wearing black and orange, and Pelkey green and yellow. They keep it pretty civil in the library but like to tease each other.

“Go Beavs,” Gavin said.

“Go Ducks,” added Pelkey.

Although the librarians keep the rivalry pretty tame, library patron and retiree Rob London said not all the town’s residents take the rivalry so lightly.

“I think they are pretty competitive,” London said. “It’s a good rivalry and not a hot headed rivalry. It’s good for the community.”

Before he moved to Oregon London was unfamiliar with the Civil War and has become a Beavers fan but roots for both sides. London and his wife Lucy moved to Monroe from Florence, Oregon four years ago and are originally from Michigan. 

“Monroe was the last place we thought we would go to. We fell in love with the town and we’re enjoying it,” London said.

The Monroe High School is located just across the street from the library and in years past in honor of the Civil War the staff has encouraged students to dress up in orange and black, or green and yellow. The main office had been split down the middle with Ducks and Beavers decorations. This year due to the retirement of longtime Ducks fan and office specialist Denise Wall, only one half is decorated with Beavers gear. The usually Duck side of the office is bare.

“I miss some of the green and yellow, and I certainly miss Mrs. Wall,” said Monroe High School Principal and Head Football coach Bill Crowson.

“We are no longer split in our office. We’re united,” added Monroe High School Office Specialist Kerri Hicks. “Except our principal, he is a U of O fan, but we forgive him.”

The rivalry aside, Crowson sees the town’s location as a huge advantage for his students.

“I think from our perspective we’re in a great spot. The kids have two big Division-1 schools they can visit,” Crowson said.

Although close to both schools, Crowson said more Monroe students go onto Oregon State over UO at a rate of “three or two, to one.” He credits this to the fact that Monroe is a largely timber and agricultural community, students do not have to drive through Eugene to get to school and the relationship OSU and Linn-Benton Community College have through their dual enrollment program. However, when it comes to the rivalry at school, the kids are pretty calm.

“The kids are pretty good about it, but the adults on the other hand,” Crowson said.

 Monroe Fire Chief Rick Smith is a lifelong Beaver fan and agrees with Crowson, stating that the kids are pretty good about the rivalry, but there are some adults who take it pretty seriously even making wagers on the game.

“There are some very passionate people on both sides,” Rick Smith said. “They seem to feed off of each other.”

Postmaster Anne Smith has seen her fair share of mail and people come through the Monroe post office. Her husband graduated from OSU and her son graduated from UO. Just like her family she says the town is equally split.

“It’s pretty evenly divided. Its definitely a friendly rivalry,” Anne Smith said. 

The Long Branch Bar and Grill is located at the center of town and is Monroe’s local watering hole. It is the only full service bar in town. Inside both the Ducks and Beavers are equally represented with season schedules and beer signs. The beer signs are even symbolically located; the Beavers on the north side of the bar and the Ducks on the south.

Long Branch bartender Judy Unquera said that just like the bars decor, her patrons are also evenly divided and the place gets busy on game days.

“It’s like a flood of people. It’s a lot of fun to work in,” Unquera said. “It’s a madhouse. It’s wall to wall.”

The rivalry doesn’t stop at the city limits. Two miles south out of Monroe one can’t miss Karen Boyd’s house. She proudly displays among other things a Ducks flag at the end of her driveway and while attending Duck road games has had conversations with other fans that know exactly where she lives because of it. 

Due to her Duck pride, when Boyd found out about the high school office decorations she was not pleased.

“I’m going to have to raise a protest it’s always been equally divided,” Boyd said.

The flag is not Boyd’s only Ducks gear visible from the highway. She has a Ducks basketball hoop, wind chimes, signs and a 2015 yellow Chevy Camaro equipped with a license plate that reads “#1 O FAN”  that her late husband Jim bought before he died.

Boyd thinks fondly of the time she and her husband spent attending Ducks games, especially the final time they attended the Civil War at Reser Stadium.

“Me and my husband went Ducked out amongst the Beavers section,” Boyd said. “It was cool. They were cool. No heckling, It was fun, everyone was cordial.”

Boyd’s neighbor Carmita Mosley on the other hand, despite her green house, is a Beavers fan. She flies a slightly smaller Beavs flag on her house and has a Beavers sticker on her mailbox that Boyd gave her.

“There is a rivalry. I go for the Beavers, she goes for the Ducks. We don’t argue we just talk about it,” Mosley said.

 There is a field about the size of a football field separating the neighbors houses and the grass on either side is just as green, but when they mow the Civil War comes to life.

“She drives a (green and yellow) John Deer tractor, and I drive an orange Husqvarna and she likes my mower better,” said Boyd.

“It’s bigger than mine,” added Mosley. “Then there’s the color.” 

Literally caught in the middle of the Civil War, Monroe appears to be just another friendly little town. Some residents choose sides and proudly root on the Ducks or Beavs, but for the most part it’s residents

are civil when it comes to the rivalry.

“When I watch I’m just happy whoever wins,” Anne Smith said. “Just don’t hurt each other, but that’s a mom thing.”