How the Binghams Found Their Way Home

Longtime Longbranch volunteers Peg and Larry Bingham almost left the Key Peninsula soon after arriving.

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Peg and Larry Bingham, age 88 and 90 respectively, spent years on the move pursuing various enterprises and adventures, delivering airplanes cross-country, traveling the world, living on a sailboat, cruising to Alaska and California and beyond, before accidentally discovering the KP.

But it nearly didn’t happen.

The Binghams once owned a summer cabin on Pickering Passage in the 1960s and were looking for another one there in 1999 for retirement.

“Highway 302 takes you down to where our cabin was past Shelton,” Larry said. “We were looking over there and were headed back to Seattle, and we had always seen the signs to Key Center and had never gone down there, so we did.”

The result was making a new home in an old cabin on the edge of Filucy Bay in 2000.

“After two years we almost left,” said Peg, because they felt isolated.

“On our road here, there was just one other house where people lived full-time,” said Peg. “Very nice people but I had never even been inside their gate.”

Then Peg met Dick Van Cise on one of her regular long walks. “He was a Longbranch Improvement Club member and he insisted that we needed to join. They ask, ‘Would you do this, would you do that,’ and if you say yes once, you’re nailed.”

Peg worked with other volunteers to renovate the LIC kitchen and prepare food for events. “I just sort of started doing it. There are some fantastic cooks in this area.” She and those other fantastic cooks would later publish the LIC recipe book, “Savories and Sweets, South Sound Treats.” She became famous for her baking and was something of a kitchen fixture herself, even to the extent of getting carted off in an ambulance during one event. Of course, she came right back.

Peg also served as secretary for the LIC board and Larry was president, but he said his most important contribution was working on the trails behind the club house.

“It all started with Rich Hildahl, when he was president,” he said. “That whole area behind the building used to be a marshland. Jim Olson had done drawings for Rich of clearings we could create in the woods with picnic tables and all sorts of good things.”

Thus began 15 years of trailblazing, bridge building and redirecting water flow in the 7-acre woodland.

“We always had more help than we knew what to do with,” Larry said. “We had a group of volunteers cut ivy every month. We had a scout troop show up. Carolyn Wiley saw an Americorp group doing a project at Camp Sound View and talked them into working for us on their day off — 14 people. Oh, that was fantastic.”

It may have been a short drive from SR-302 down to their new home in Longbranch, but it was a long and winding road through life to get there.

Larry was born in Shelton and Peg in Seattle. They met in the spring of 1952 at the University of Washington sophomore carnival. “Her sorority was across from my fraternity, so we joined together to build a stage for the carnival,” Larry said. “We were down there trying to do things and this lady walks up and says, ‘I know all about carpentry because my dad’s a builder.’ That’s how we met.”

“I can’t remember if it was a nail gun or a paint gun or a staple gun, but I said ‘Oh, I know how to use that,’ and promptly jammed it,” said Peg.

They started dating in September and were married one year later. Peg dropped out of nursing school since it required her to live in a nurses’ dorm. Larry graduated in 1954 as a distinguished military graduate in ROTC with a bachelor’s in business administration.

The Army called Larry to active duty the week before Christmas and sent him to the Presidio in San Francisco. Peg joined him soon after when their first son, Larry, was one month old.

“So, I go in and report and the commander says ‘I see here you do a lot of boating and sailing.’ Yes sir. ‘Well, I need somebody to run the Presidio Harbor Craft and Marine Maintenance Division: You’re the guy.’ ”

As a brand-new second lieutenant, Larry was put in charge of four 84-foot landing craft, three 50-foot passenger-freighters, a 50-foot Chris Craft sport fishing boat, and a 63-foot rescue craft propelled by twin aircraft engines.

“I had 75 GIs who were the crew and 75 civilians,” he said. “We ran the ferries to Angel Island, where there was a whole battalion at the Nike missile site. We’d take dignitaries and convalescing patients on fishing trips. Did that for two years. What more could you ask for?”

The young family returned to Seattle in 1956. Their second son, Mike, was born the following January.

Larry spent the next 15 years working in the cement business, first as a salesman and then as the owner of his own company. Their daughter Ann was born in 1960 and Peg stayed home until all three children were in school, when she joined Larry’s staff. She also volunteered as a teacher’s aide for a school for preschool children with special needs, served on its board of directors, and was president of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild, among other things.

“About 1974 I finally decided I’d like to do something I’d really enjoy,” Larry said. He sold the cement company and went to the Piper dealer at Hillsboro Airport, near where they were living at the time. He’d earned his pilot’s license in high school. “I generally flew Pipers and Comanches and chatted with him and next thing I know I’m their sales manager.”

He sold Pipers, the Cheyenne series, Merlin aircraft, and an open cockpit biplane called the Great Lakes, a replica of a Thirties-era barnstormer.

“He sold one to a pilot who lived in Connecticut and Larry and I delivered it to him, flying at 500 feet all the way across the United States,” said Peg. “I wouldn’t trade those five days for anything.”

Larry has flown float planes, single-engines, multi-engines, helicopters and gliders. He and Peg have flown all over Alaska and to Mexico and Florida. He’s had a flight instructor’s certificate for 42 years. “The best part was I taught my oldest son how to fly.”

“But he didn’t teach his wife,” said Peg. “We did try. I learned in a friend’s Cessna Turbo 210 with retractable gear and the whole nine yards, then got my license at Boeing Field.”

Peg also said she is afraid of heights. “I had a two-story house and I had a hard time washing the windows on the second floor, even from the inside,” she said. “And yet I can fly an airplane. I actually went skydiving when I was 59. It was so beautiful.”

In 1982 the couple sold their house and bought a 45-foot ketch called Wind Drifter.

“Our plan was to outfit it, live on Lake Union, and when we retired head down the coast and do what’s called the Milk Run across the Pacific,” Larry said. “It didn’t work out quite the way we planned it. Interest rates went way up and I was in corporate aircraft sales then, and it just killed the whole thing.”

They did sail down to San Francisco where Larry got another job selling aircraft. “Something opened up in San Diego and that was on the route we were trying to make work, so we sailed down there and lived in the inner harbor for three months.” Another opportunity appeared in Portland, and they lived on the boat in the Columbia River before finally returning to Seattle.

“I loved it,” said Peg. “We probably would not have moved off the boat but back in Seattle my mother was not well, and getting her on and off the boat was difficult. And she didn’t like it anyway; she thought we were absolutely out of our minds.”

In 1991 they moved ashore and sold the boat. They’d lived aboard Wind Drifter for 11 years.

“I wouldn’t meet the people who bought it and cried for two days,” Peg said.

By this time Larry was selling aircraft parts to Boeing and Peg was working for a Seattle philanthropist, the jobs they would retire from.

They did manage to sail in the South Seas — doing a bareboat charter in Tahiti. They rented a plane and island-hopped by air too.

“We have been so fortunate in our lives,” Peg said. They have lived in Longbranch for 21 years, longer than anywhere else.

“Our kids keep saying come live by us and I think, why? We’re just very lucky to have lived the life we have lived, and to end up here,” she said.


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