Carla Wright, this year’s Prairie City Fourth of July Parade grand marshal, has experienced many memorable Independence Day celebrations in the town.
“One year it snowed, and it wasn’t one to two years after that, it was 104 degrees,” she said. “Grant County weather is something else.”
Another Fourth of July memory: “The kids, helping with kids games at the football field and at the park,” she said. “It was fun.”
There were three-legged races, balloon games and kids digging for coins, including 50-cent pieces, in sand.
Children have been, and continue to be, at the center of Wright’s world.
Now retired, she was a well-loved third-grade teacher at Prairie City School for 32 years.
“They’re still young enough to like you,” she quipped. “When I went back to subbing, I enjoyed the junior high kids.”
Wright grew up in Mt. Vernon and graduated from Mt. Vernon High School. She received her teaching degree from Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.
At the start of her career, Wright taught for four years in New Mexico on a reservation. She then taught two years in Bates, where she and Everett King were the last two teachers before the school closed. She was then offered a job in Prairie City.
“I’ve always liked kids, to be able to teach them not only academics, but life,” she said. “I always said, if I made a good citizen out of a kid, then I knew I did a good job.”
Although Wright retired from substitute teaching a year ago, she still stays active, volunteering for the Prairie Baptist Awana. She also volunteered for Young Life in the past, busing youth from Prairie City to John Day for four years.
Wright is the secretary-treasurer of the Prairie City Cemetery District. The organization received funding and in-kind assistance to install a well earlier this year, since the irrigation ditch used to water the cemetery lawn often runs dry in July. Now the district is fundraising to install plumbing and electricity for the well.
She and her husband, Larry, enjoy attending all the Prairie City Panther basketball games.
The couple will celebrate their 45th anniversary in August.
Larry was the plant superintendent at Grant Western Lumber Co. in John Day before it closed.
They have four children, Julie Combs, Rusty Wright, Brenda Lovell and Jason Wright, and have 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Last year, Carla and Larry rode on the Prairie City Senior Citizens float, and this year he’ll accompany her in a ‘57 Chevy.
The classic car is one they previously owned and gave to their son Rusty. They also gave Jason their ‘65 Ford Mustang.
The couple were members of the Grant County Kruzers classic car club, when the organization was active.
They travel all over Oregon with a visit to Hawaii every other year.
“If I go to the city, I’m always glad to come home,” she said.