Registration for the celebration begins at 10 a.m. at the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center Saturday, June 8. A potluck will be held at noon, with the program to follow at 1 p.m.
Queen Mother Marge McRae
Margret Mary Thies was born in the old hospital in Burns on August 31, 1925, to Gretta Louise Houghton Thies and Hermon G. Thies. She grew up in Burns, going to grade school and high school, and on to some college.
Marge had a dream as a small child. She used to go to Logan Valley as a companion to Lenore Capps, whose parents surveyed for the government. She went with them for several years, and one day when they were ready to leave and Lenore’s father came to her and said, “Its’ time to go home,” she said, “Someday when I grow up, I want to come up here and build a great big barn so a bunch of kids can have a good time.”
Her dream was set in place. A few years later she got married to Howard Riley and learned how to hunt, fish, camp and ride horses. She worked in the hay fields mowing hay all day, and as the years went by, she graduated to cooking three meals a day for the hay crew.
On April 16, 1949, in Ontario, she and Howard had a baby girl named Sally Susanne. The little girl was the apple of the family’s’ eye because she was the only grandchild for the first 10 years. Living in Drewsey then, Marge worked in her flower garden and worked in the fields and cooked when she had to. She taught herself to do leather craft and started a 4-H Club, and as the years went by, she taught 4-H leather craft, sheep, and horse for 28 years. She even had a taxidermy class. She was a member of the Home Extension Club, too. On May 3, 1959, in Burns, she had a little boy, Timothy Frank. In the 60s she was involved in the Harney County Cowbells and served as president for two years.
She worked in Arts and Hobbies and the Flower Department at the fair for many, many years.
She married John Duncan McRae in April 1967, and moved to the “Mace Place” near the Island Ranch. She continued being a rancher’s wife, pushing the cattle on cattle drives from the Riverside Ranch to the Mace Place in the spring and fall.
In the 1960s, she received word that they were going to build a recreation camp in Logan Valley and she wanted to help build the lodge. It was suggested they sell 200 life-time memberships to request a loan from the government so they could get started on their project. Marge went to work selling 200 memberships. Everywhere she went that was all the two kids heard, “I’d like to sell you a lifetime membership for the Lake Creek Recreation Camp.” Years went by, but before long they had the membership completed. A $25,000 loan was obtained through FHA, and it would only cost $50,000 to complete the lodge. They started in June 1966, and with shovel in hand, she did the ground breaking at Lake Creek with Roderick McKay from Harper, director of the Lake Creek Recreation Association, County Agent Ray Novotny of Burns and County Agent Bill Farrell of John Day looking on. As president of the association, she broke ground in preparation for construction of a new lodge building at the Lake Creek Campsite in Logan Valley. The site is located 20 miles east of Seneca. It started out by accommodating 4-H youth, Scouts, and church youth groups, and is open to adult organizations as well.
Marge was president of Lake Creek Youth Facility for many years. At their second meeting, she was quoted as saying, “It is you, as members, who will be making the decisions for this fabulous camp which will be a reality before very long.”
Edward Hines Lumber Co. and Jim Tackman Construction did a lot of work and donating of time and lumber to build the lodge. Bill Foster was the construction supervisor of the lodge, and volunteers helped put on the roof and get the walls up before the snow started that winter. The Job Corps had 20 boys work on the roof to help get it done before winter.
Laddie Clark from Drewsey used his back hoe to fill in the drain field for the 2,500 gallon septic tanks. John McRae and Marge hauled a truck load of lumber from the Hines Mill to complete the interior of the lodge.
Soon they had pamphlets made and sent out to all three counties, Grant, Harney and Malheur. As time has gone by, many upgrades have been added, such as propane, kitchen appliances, an all-stainless steel kitchen, new bathrooms and cabins.
Today, Grant County and its hard working people are still working to keep Marge’s dream going. She kept a scrapbook of all the buildings and meetings for many years, and even painted the front of the scrapbook to look like the outside of the lodge. The scrapbook is at the Lake Creek Youth Facility if anyone wants to see it.
They had their 3rd annual fundraiser dinner and auction on Sept. 19, 2009, where the members of the Lake Creek Youth Facility dedicated the Fireplace Room to Marge to commemorate her dream and dedication. This fall will be the 7th annual fundraiser and auction, and we hope Harney County will come.
Marge started working at the Burns Chamber of Commerce in 1980, and worked there for six years. She was Woman of the Year in 1992, and Grand Marshal of the Harney County Fair, Rodeo and Race Meet in 1998.
She was a member and president of the Sunrise Garden Club for many years. They put up $1,500 for the mating eagle sculpture at the senior center which sits in the front yard. They also put a stainless steel sculpture with iris in the entrance of the Harney District Hospital. Iris is the flower for Sunrise Garden Club.
Her life has been enjoying people, loving and teaching children, enjoying the outdoors, scenery and family. Her dream is Lake Creek Youth Camp.
President Bob Smyth
It was on the 15th day of March 1934 that Robert “Bob” was born to John and Grace Smyth at the old Harney County Hospital on North Egan in Burns. He joined his siblings: Johnny, or “Cactus” as we always referred to him, his oldest brother, Blair Louise, his oldest sister, and brother Loris “Wart,” who was about 2 years old at that time.
The family moved to the bay area in California when Bob was very small and his father worked for Hayward County Water Works as a foreman on the Oakland Bay Bridge. They resided there for only a few years and returned to Oregon. Their dad didn’t really care for California very much. When they returned, his father built a house in Andrews on property they owned. It was home to them, as at one time his grandparents owned and operated businesses in both Fields and Andrews. A few years later, a younger sister, Carol Smyth-Sawyer was born.
In the early 1940s, the family moved to Burns and Bob started third grade at the old Burns Grammar School, which is now the Slater School gymnasium. He had some very wonderful teachers while growing up in Burns. Some that come to mind are Mrs. Alice Bennett, Miss Emmy, Mrs. Eleanor Briggs, Iva Case and Austa Carlon. There were, of course, many others who had a very positive influence on his life.
Shortly after moving to Burns, Bob’s father was very seriously burned while working on the construction of the Burns Airport. He was hospitalized for many months, and we were very lucky that he even survived.
After his father’s recovery, his folks leased the Coca-Cola Bottling works for about four years. It was during that time there was another addition to the family, a little sister, Yvonne Noel, was born.
After leaving the bottling works, his dad worked for Neil Smith in the plumbing business, not knowing that several years later he would be in the grocery business in that very same building that he had worked on.
When Bob was in the seventh grade, his folks borrowed money to start a grocery business. At that time, they were renting a home in Hines. A year later they moved back to Burns and lived in the house that the folks bought on East Jefferson. It remained the family home until his parents passed away.
On, or about, Bob’s 32nd birthday, his folks moved their family business, “Smyth’s Market,” from the building next to the Hilander Cafe to the McCulloch building located on the corner of Broadway and Monroe at the traffic light. It remained a family business until the mid-1970s.
After graduating from high school, Bob joined the Armed Services and was deployed overseas to Korea. On returning from Korea, he moved to Seattle and worked for Boeing Aircraft. It was while he was in Seattle that he met the love of his life, his wife, Loretta “Jeannie.” She happened to be living in the same apartment complex as him. They have been married 56 years this coming Oct. 19. Most of their married life has been spent in Oregon. Bob refers to it as time spent in the “Three B’s” — Burns, Baker City and Bend.
Bob attended Oregon Technical Institute and graduated in auto body and fender repair. He worked at this trade for about three years off and on, and found out it was not for him as he was too much of a perfectionist and it took speed.
He worked in the plywood factory at the Hines sawmill for a time. While there, he was contacted through the Junior Chamber of Commerce that they wanted him to take on a selling job. He was stunned, literally, because up until that time, he had been somewhat quiet and bashful, believe it or not! Anyway, he went to work for the non-foods division of Hudson House Grocery Company, working for them for a number of years until 1979. It was at that time he started his own business. He made a deal with United Groceries Inc., located in Bend, that he would peddle their products for 7 percent of their gross sales. This was pretty good back then because the larger stores ordered five to six thousand dollars worth of merchandise in an order, and then by adding in the resources from the smaller markets, it was a pretty good income.
Bob and Jeannie were blessed with three wonderful sons. The oldest, Corey Robert, was born in Burns, and now resides in Maui, Hawaii, with his wife, Carolyn (“Trixie”). They have a daughter, Whitney, who is married to a young man from Maui, Kylan Shimakowa, and they are now living in Utah.
When Bob and Jeannie were living in Baker, their second son, Charles (Chuck), was born in 1959. Chuck was married while working in Colorado, and he and his wife, Debbie, blessed them with a second granddaughter, Heather. She lives in Denver, Colo. Sadly, Chuck passed away in 2004.
When Bob and family moved from Baker back to Burns, they were blessed with the birth of their third son, Todd, in 1964. He lives and works in Snowmass, Colo., near Aspen.
When their three sons relocated to Colorado, Bob and Jeannie decided to move from their home in Bend to Colorado. In Colorado, Bob helped his sons in their businesses and worked in maintenance for Pitkin County.
At age 65, Bob said it was time to retire. He’d had enough of city, county and state government work and they moved back to Burns in 1999.
But if you know Bob, he just couldn’t stay idle, so he went to work for the Pony Express. It turned out to be a private business for basically 13 years and kept him plenty busy.
And so here he is! He’s probably left several things out and could have gone into more detail, but those of you who know him, remember him from the “get-go,” and also know he could “ramble on” forever, so we will end this now.