Senior Feature: Myrthena Grater
Myrthena Grater, now age 91, was born in Madras to homesteading parents Alfred and Agusta Martin on Nov. 13, 1911, and grew up on a ranch on Agency Plains.
As children, she and her two brothers and two sisters all were assigned chores as soon as they were old enough, fitted to their age and ability. "We were taught to work for the joy of a job well done. Money never entered the picture. There was no place to spend it anyway," she related.
They attended the Lyle Gap schoolhouse her father had help build, and later graduated from Madras Union High School. At age 16, Myrthena attended two years of teachers college in Monmouth, but because she wasn't quite 18 years old, her father had to sign her first teaching contract.
The first position of her 34-year teaching career was at Fairview School in Jefferson County. Next she taught seven students at Mud Springs School, then the Great Depression came along. She substituted at Donnybrook School, then was hired to teach all eight grades at Ashwood School. She boarded with Mrs. Grater in Ashwood and struck up a friendship with her son, Harold, who stayed with his mother part of the time while working in Ashwood. Subsequent teaching jobs took her to Hermiston, Boardman, Heppner and Bend.
In 1945, after World War II ended, she married her sweetheart Harold Grater, and they settled in Ashwood in 1947 and farmed for the next 30 years. She had intended to quit teaching after marrying, but since teachers were scarce in remote areas, she kept teaching, and finished a four-year degree at Monmouth. They had two children, Dorothy and Arnold, and later, when her husband developed a debilitating condition, she became the family's main bread winner.
Myrthena taught six years in Wasco, and 10 at Warm Springs Elementary before retiring and often thinks of all the children she taught. "I loved them all. When I had them in class, they were MY children," she states.
She was able to be home with Harold for three years before he passed away in 1977 and called those years "our sunset honeymoon."
Since January 2002, Myrthena has been a tenant at Sherron's Family Care, located in Country View Estates on the hills overlooking Madras. These days she enjoys reading, working on crossword puzzles, writing letters to friends, and keeping up with events in the newspapers. Her son Arnold passed away in 2001, but her daughter Dorothy Fromong lives in Madras.
Each week Myrthena welcomes visits from a Madras Elementary class during Soup Day, when students bring her soup and listen to her tell stories of early-day Madras history. "They like to hear about what it was like when you were their age. They have the same problems as you did. They learn how to listen and sift out what they need to hear," she said of her storytelling sessions.
Reflecting over her years of teaching and knowing many people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, Myrthena commented, "I'm grateful for all the differences in the United States of America and that we're not all pushed into the same pipe. Our differences are the spice of life."