When she received a phone call asking if she would take on the role of 2019 Pioneer Day Queen, Milene Radford said she was “blown away!”
“It’s a good thing I was sitting down when I got that call,” Milene said. “I was very surprised. It feels great to be Queen — it’s truly an honor.”
Her calendar has been full since that call and she’s been keeping busy with appearances at numerous events including the Royalty Dinner where she wore the same dress her mom wore in 1983 when her dad was Pioneer Day Marshal.
“A friend of my mom’s made it for her after telling her she needed a special dress,” Milene said. “And I have kept it all these years.”
Sitting down with Milene Radford and her husband of 59 years, Darrell, in the living room of their beautiful home on the west side of town, I was treated to a life story filled with family values, education, hard work and true love.
The story begins with her paternal grandparents, James and Angelica Barlogio, and her maternal grandparents, Orville and Lida Couchman. Fate brought these families to San Luis Obispo County and the rest is history.
The Barlogios, although from different villages in the southern part of Switzerland, settled in Cambria and were married in San Luis Obispo. They learned the English language, James became a citizen, and he registered to vote in 1898. James and Angelica had five children together, with Milene’s dad, Miles, being the middle child.
“My grandfather James was one of the founders of the Harmony Creamery Association,” Milene said. “There were 12 fellows who put in $100 each back in 1913 — that was a lot of money for them.”
The Couchmans moved from the state of Washington, where Milene’s mom, Helen, was born, to the Modesto area of California.
“My grandfather Orville had a lot of different jobs and he was looking for work in the late 1920s,” Milene said. “The economy was not very good, so he and my mom — she was the oldest sibling — came to Cambria originally to work at Hearst Castle, then he heard the Barlogio brothers in Harmony were looking for a milker. So, they hired him to work there and hired my mom to cook… but she was not a cook! She used to talk about writing letters to her mother asking how to prepare different dishes.”
Romance blossomed in the kitchen when Miles Barlogio, who had been doing most of the cooking, took Helen Couchman under his care and taught her how to cook.
“My dad had a Model A Ford coupe with a rumble seat and my mom was attracted to him as well as his car!” she said.
Miles and Helen became Mr. and Mrs. Barlogio in 1930. They lived in Green Valley before moving to the York Mountain area where they lived for six years. They welcomed their firstborn, David, in 1934, and Milene arrived on September 4, 1937; both were born at the Weideman Maternity Home on Park Street in Paso Robles.
As her brother approached school age, Milene’s parents knew it would be difficult to get him to Ascension School at the summit of York Mountain, so they moved to a ranch west of Paso Robles, located on what is now Vineyard Drive. It was just a quarter of a mile from the little country school, Oak Dale. The summer after Milene completed seventh grade, the schoolhouse burned to the ground and the vacant Ascension School building was reopened for one year.
“There were less than 25 students at the country school and sometimes I was the only one in my class,” Milene said. “When it burned down and I went to Ascension, I was the only eighth grader.”
Milene Radford attended Templeton High School, where she graduated in 1955 as the class Valedictorian. She was also involved with the Templeton 4-H.
“Life was simple,” she said. “I rode the bus, went to school, came home, did my chores and studied. Dad raised barley, wheat, and we had walnut trees and chickens. I cleaned many eggs — I had to buff those eggs — and we always had a big garden and orchard. We grew and cooked our food, and summers were spent canning fruit. My brother would be outside helping our dad and I’d be inside helping our mom.”
Milene attended Biola College in Southern California, majoring in elementary education.
“I went to classes in the morning and then worked as a typist in the afternoon all through college,” she said.
Although she had first met Darrell, a 1956 graduate of Paso Robles High School, while attending First Baptist Church, a romance didn’t blossom until they were reunited at Biola College.
“She was an almighty senior and I was just a lowly junior, so there were no sparks back then,” Darrell said.
Darrell had been in the Army Reserves, did six months of active duty, then worked at Paso Robles Daily Press. A mutual friend, Joanne Shetler, told him he needed to go to college so he headed down to Biola.
“He sat down next to me in a Spiritual Life class,” Milene said, “and the teacher said, ‘where you’re sitting now is your assigned seat for the semester.’ He wasn’t doing well so I tried to help him with studying.”
“Well, Milene found out I was flunking everything and she took pity on me,” Darrell said. “So, she started tutoring me; we’d go to the beach with an armful of books and she’d help me. I had about two years of college and it was enough for me to transfer to Cal Poly thanks to Milene teaching me to study.”
Was it love at first sight when their paths crossed again? “Well, maybe for me,” Darrell said. And for Milene? “I think he kind of grew on me!”
Milene graduated Magna cum laude from Biola on a Sunday in 1960 and married Darrell the following Saturday, June 18. They moved to Paso Robles where she landed a job teaching elementary school while he attended Cal Poly SLO, majoring in printing engineering.
“We rented a house for $65 per month on the corner of 6th and Vine in Paso Robles,” Milene said. “We would have bought the house but the landlord wanted $7,500 and we didn’t have that kind of money. After three years, we paid $14,800 for a house on 12th Street where we lived for 19 years.”
Milene taught second grade at Winifred Pifer for 17 years and at Bauer/Speck for 19 years.
“I was the reading, writing and arithmetic teacher and I really enjoyed the children,” she said.
In 1965, Darrell opened Darrell’s Print Shop which he operated until 1987.
They were active in their church and Milene was involved with the Pioneer Museum where she served on the board for 25 years. Darrell was on the board of the Templeton Museum for many years, obtained his pilot’s license and developed an aviation hobby that led to him owning and building planes. He’s a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and has given rides to 400-plus children through the Young Eagles Program.
“I’ve flown with him sometimes,” Milene said. “We’ve been cross country but I don’t enjoy it as much as he does, especially the aerobatics! We’ve traveled a lot over the years, and had some really neat trips including Peru and the Philippines.”
Now married for 59 years, the couple has also enjoyed cross country and local trips in a few “hot rods” Darrell has built or refurbished over the years including a 1940 Ford and 1941 Lincoln.
Thinking about Pioneer Day as a child, Milene said, “It was always on October 12, Columbus Day, which was a school holiday. We always enjoyed going to the parade. Now, after my dad being Marshal in 1983, it really is special to be queen this year. This is just an unexpected, special honor. And I just want to thank everyone.”