Break out the centennial celebration -- Madras High School has turned 100!
Not the building, of course; there have been four of those. But a town's high school is more than a building. A high school, more than any other structure or entity, forges a town's soul and creates a common touchstone that spans generations. Yet, schools don't seem to celebrate big anniversaries very often. They should.
Maybe a 100-year celebration emblem on sports uniforms, some T-shirts, murals in the hallways, centennial events and contests ... something, anything?
The county's education system prior to 1912 consisted of many small districts, most educating first- through eighth-graders in one-room schoolhouses. Small schools dotted the countryside -- from the Agency Plains, Mud Springs, Gateway, Lyle Gap, Round Butte, east of town toward Grizzly and another on the Ashwood Road, and the little elementary school in the dusty town of Madras itself. The nearest high school was in the county seat, Prineville, but there weren't a lot of north county kids there. Most of the local youth became fulltime farmers, or junior homemakers, after eighth-grade.
But in the summer of 1912 -- a bit over a year after the Oregon Trunk Railroad brought the future to town -- leaders from these 10 little districts coalesced around the idea of creating a high school. In the early August vote, of the 10 districts, only three saw any "no" votes at all. The move to establish Madras Union High School passed 171 to 13.
The end of August 1912 was a busy time in the basin. A second story was rapidly built onto the Madras schoolhouse on the east side of town. The second story would serve as the first high school. Homesteaders from the region hurriedly sought rental housing in town so their children wouldn't have to walk or ride horseback miles each way. On Sept. 16, 1912, Madras Union High School opened its doors for the first time.
I may be getting old, but I wasn't among the first class at Madras High (not until the fall of '77 did I enter its halls). I've learned these historic tidbits by going through the old Pioneers to compile our Looking Back column, which chronicles news from 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago. Oddly, it seems those quarter-century blocks bring about major high school news.
At its 25th anniversary, the high school had vanished. The pride of the community, the high school built in 1920, had burned to the ground in January. Classes in the meantime were held in private businesses, namely the Madras Hotel. But, after months of seeking it, the school board announced in late August that enough funding had been secured to build a new high school: a whopping $60,321.
At its 50th anniversary in 1962, overcrowding had the "new" MUHS bursting at its seams. The church across the street (current dance studio location) was used for some classes, and officials discussed either adding onto the structure or building a new high school. In a couple years, the high school we know today was built.
Last spring, with the high school nearing its 100th anniversary, voters backed a $26.7 million bond that will, among other major items, build a new football-track complex and a performing arts center at the high school.
Hard to imagine what 2037, the 125th anniversary, may bring.
Sure, there have been four high school structures over the century, but only one Madras High School. From the days when the homestead kids walked up those wooden stairs in 1912, to now, when kids take a quick look at their smart phones before pushing through the doors -- it's been one strong line a century long of White Buffalo (the school name since 1935 anyway) pride.
Congrats on turning 100, Madras High. The school should consider ways to mark and celebrate it.