VHS alumni meet

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, April 28, 2016

Some came from far, some came from near, but all came for the Victoria High School annual alumni celebration for one reason.

“It’s the place where we grew up in and we love it,” said Herb Seay, who graduated from the school in 1954 after playing quarterback on the football team, pitcher on the baseball team and center on the basketball team.

“This has been a wonderful place; a wonderful community to grow up in; wonderful teachers.”

Alumni from all the classes who graduated from the school gathered on Saturday. The gathering was annual but this year marked 50 years since the school’s last graduating class.

Located on Eighth Street, the Victoria High School is a national and state historical landmark. The town eventually took over what was once the all-white school and the Victoria High School Preservation Foundation has exhibits from past years as alumni donated items from the school and locals various artifacts.

“It kind of caught on that it’s the Victoria museum, but it’s not,” said Nancy Snead, president of the foundation.

In one room are uniforms donated by residents who served in the various branches of the military. In another room, Donna Pulliam, the foundation’s vice president, posed beside an exhibit on Dr. Edwin Lawrence Kendig, a well-known local physician who founded a hospital in the spot now occupied by Benchmark bank.

“We’ve got little bits and pieces of the whole town and county in this building,” Pulliam said. “Things that aren’t here anymore we’ve got pictures of and newspaper articles (about.)”

But this time a year, the highlights are the donations of former students.

In the room honoring the school’s athletics, Seay stood behind his football letterman jacket – surrounding by other jackets, helmets and other athletic paraphernalia.

Linda Fox-Kriner, a member of the class of 1965, was making plans to turn over a collection of the school’s newspapers. “It was everything from upcoming events to little gossip about who liked who,” she recalled. “Because I know someday my kids will just throw them away and I’d rather they be here.”

Fox-Kriner said she is holding onto her eighth-grade through twelfth-grade yearbooks, but will instruct her children to bring them to the school when the time comes.

She and her husband drove in from Newport News just for the day. They come every year. “I’m glad it’s here,” she said of the school. “For as long as I can, I will be here.”

Jonathan Clarke, a local high school student, set up a special exhibit of items from the different decades the school operated.

“It’s really nice for the alumni to see — refresh their memories and bring them back to bygone times,” he said.

Del. Tommy Wright Jr., who graduated in 1966 in that last class and had a sister in the first class to graduate from the consolidated school that replaced it, said there was a time when there was talk of tearing down the school, as well as its counterpart in Kenbridge. He was a member of the county’s board of supervisors at the time, and he and fellow supervisor Isaiah Hopkins were among those who fought to save the buildings. In Victoria, the foundation had led the revitalization efforts.

I enjoyed graduating from here,” he said. “I enjoyed my time at Victoria High School.”

Though there aren’t usually regular hours, visitors make their way to tour the school and its holdings.

Through the years, building has also hosted events in its 450-seat capacity auditorium, including a musical for Fort Pickett troops about to go to Iraq.

“It still looks stately on this little hill,” Snead said. “I think it will carry on for a while.”