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Students rough on her when she started teaching in 1953, but she'd teach until age 87

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER
 - Marge Shanahan recently turned 90. She came to Madras fresh out of college in 1953 to teach sophomore English at Madras Union High School. She left full-time teaching to have her three children, but she returned as a substitute teacher in 1970, and continued to sub until age 87.

Marguerite "Marge" Shanahan came to Madras in 1953 and just celebrated her 90th birthday – but she still isn't considered a local old-timer.

"You have to have come before the irrigation water came in 1946, or you're not an old-timer," she said she was informed.

Shanahan grew up in North Dakota, then attended Marylhurst College in the Willamette Valley. After graduating, liking the dry climate of Central Oregon, she took a job teaching sophomore English at Madras Union High School (now Westside), beginning a 55-year career in education.

She described Madras in 1953 as being "strait-laced." The bus from Portland stopped at a hotel located where Sunshine Corner is now, and she remembers the Chief Theater across the street, and Safeway being where Ace Hardware is currently.

"I have lots of good memories of my first years at Madras High, although the kids gave me a terribly bad time at first. I was afraid of snakes, and the boys got a snake from the biology room and I found it curled up on my grade book so I couldn't take attendance. They locked me in the closet, put shot ducks on my podium, or I'd open my desk and there would be a white mouse in it," she recalled.

"The principal had a bet going with the teachers that I wouldn't last a year. But I got wind of it and fooled them," she stated.

"The sophomores then were like seventh-graders now; some of them had never even been to Bend," she said.

She shared an apartment with another teacher for 1 1/2 years, until her roommate eloped. "I went to spend the weekend at Mrs. Millie Morrow's and ended up staying four years," she said, explaining that "Mrs. M" let a few teachers and students board at the large Morrow house on the hill in Madras.

Millie Morrow, the mother of Andy Morrow, was around 80 at the time and had come to Madras in 1911. She cooked for her boarders and helped Shanahan get acquainted with townspeople. Shanahan got a kick out of Andy and said he had a great sense of humor.

Years later, when they were older, she related, "The Morrows were all deaf and had every kind of hearing aide and none of them worked." She was sitting by Andy in church one time when a lady walked down the aisle with a tussled hairdo. "Next week, I'll bring her a brush," Andy quipped, not realizing he was talking loudly and the lady could hear him.

She met William "Bud" Shanahan in a group of young people she belonged to. He had come to Madras to work on the dam, but found out he belonged to the wrong union. Luckily, he had local contacts. He was friends with Rich and Leonard Conroy while attending the University of Oregon, and Leonard hired him to sell cars at their Main Street Garage in Madras. Later, he sold for the Ford Garage, then in 1980 switched to selling insurance.

They dated a couple of years and were married in 1959. The next year when she became pregnant, she said Principal Carl Rhoda was happy for her, and two other teachers who were also pregnant. However, when he shared the news with some prominent townspeople they told him, "'We can't have pregnant teachers with sophomores,' and he said we'd have to quit!" she said.

The teachers thought that was ridiculous and objected. "So, we just kept coming and no more was said about it and we kept teaching," Shanahan said.

She taught fulltime for eight years, then stayed home for nine years to raise their children, Patricia Ann (nicknamed Pat-o) Sean, and Liam. They called Patricia "Pat-o" because her husband didn't like the nickname Patsy. In 1970, she started substitute teaching and didn't retire until 2017 at age 86.

"I substituted in every room at the high school, including metal shop, and at the junior high. The last years I subbed for Martha Ahern's Transition Classes, and that was fun," she said of the classes for special ed students ages 18-21.

The Shanahan children were active. Sean was in band, choir and school plays, Liam in junior high band, and Pat-o in band, choir, Future Business Leaders of America and 4-H. Shanahan laughed about being the adult sponsor of her daughter's 4-H efforts. "I didn't cook or sew very well, but she learned how and went to the state fair!" she confessed.

Shanahan was an active member of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, singing in the choir, being in the altar society, and serving 35 years as the secretary of the annual Cowdeo, which was the church's big fundraiser. The Cowdeo was a mini rodeo for kids with events like mutton busting, where kids rode sheep instead of broncos. "I saved all my books of notes because the meetings were so fun," she said.

For years, she was also part of the church group Carol and Friends, with Carol Andrews on piano, Alma Binder on violin, and others, who performed weekly at Mountain View Nursing Home, singing with the residents. She remembers Paul Stevenson, whose wife was there, would help by dancing with the ladies who were able. "The residents loved it," she said.

Their son Liam had a learning disability but wasn't diagnosed for a long time. "People thought he was just the weird Shanahan kid," she said. But his family understood him.

She remembered once time Junior High Principal Phil Riley told her he was trying to befriend Liam, but the boy wouldn't speak to him. He made the mistake of saying something to Liam and Liam over-reacted. "After school, Liam went over to Mr. Riley, threw his arms around his legs and yelled, 'I'm so sorry I didn't say hi to you!'"

It wasn't until Liam was 17 that the special ed director Stan Pine took him to Portland to be evaluated. "That was the first time they used the word autistic," she said. Liam went to Goodwill in Portland for training and they placed him in the book store, but later found him sitting in the aisle reading books.

Libraries and books are a passion of his. Liam was able to move to Portland and lives in a studio apartment across from Schnitzer Hall. He belongs to the Oregon Genealogy Society and does his own research, collects phone books from everywhere, and enjoys going from library to library, including college libraries.

"He's been completely on his own for 35 years and comes home on Thanksgiving and Christmas," his mother said.

A few years after she retired, Bud became ill and was on hospice for two years. A caregiver came for five hours a day, and Marge was his caregiver the rest of the time. Bud passed away in February of this year.

Since then, her children have been visiting to help her sort through things. Otherwise, she spends her time doing crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles and reading. "It's great therapy and just plain fun," she noted.

On May 21, Sean, Pat-o, her sister Angie, and niece Mary from Houston, all came to help celebrate her 90th birthday at a family dinner. Several teachers and other friends sent her bouquets of flowers.

"Pat-o made dinner and a special four-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting," she said. Two days later, on Sunday, she was sitting in church when they announced that the Mass was in honor of her milestone birthday.

In 2004, the kids took their parents on a trip to Ireland and England, which Shanahan said they really enjoyed. And now she's thinking about traveling again. "My sister, niece, Pat-o and I have plans for a road trip to Washington, Montana and Idaho to visit relatives," she said.

Besides the dry weather and sunshine, Shanahan said what she likes about Madras is "The people; everybody's pretty friendly." Plus, when she moved here, her friend Norma Richardson's dad told her, "If you ever wear out a pair of shoes here, you'll never leave."


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