‘The Last Warriors’.
Tomorrow (Friday) night, the Vevay High School Class of 1968 will gather for its 50-year reunion at the Ogle Haus Inn.
On Saturday afternoon, the class members will be honored at the Vevay Alumni meeting held in the gymnasium of Switzerland County High School.
And then, it will be over.
The Vevay High School Class of 1968 is the last class to graduate from Vevay High before it consolidated with Patriot High School to form Switzerland County High School.
They are, in fact, the last Warriors.
Vevay’s Warriors and Patriot’s Trojans came together in 1968-1969 to by the very first class of Pacers; but for the class of 68, memories a half-century old are still clear as some members gathered on the steps of the old school on Seminary Street recently.
Most people call it the old high school — but don’t tell the last Warriors that. To them, the school building that held so many memories has long since been taken down.
“Our school was right over there,” class member Rodger Weaver said as he looked east from the school. “It’s been torn down and there’s just the lot there now, but that’s where the high school was. This building had the four classrooms on the ground floor for some high school classes like typing, and the seventh and eighth graders were upstairs. We spent most of our time next door.”
School board records show that the old high school was razed in 1971.
The students who came to Vevay High School beginning in the ninth grade came from all around the county; as most county schools funneled into Vevay with a few students going to Patriot.
Weaver attended Allensville school; while Beverly Heath came to Vevay from the Florence school. Mike Bear was a Jefferson-Craig student; and Dennis Rowlett and Gary Bennett both went to school in Pleasant before coming to Vevay for high school.
“We all got along pretty well,” Bear said. “There were different schools, but everybody knew everybody. It all worked out.”
The old high school had some unique architectural elements; and was a split-level design. Walking in the main doors gave students the option of going downstairs, where the cafeteria was, among some other classrooms. The cafeteria had previously served as the gym — before what is known now as the Old Gym was built.
The main level included the senior lockers; while a trip a flight of stairs took students to another hallway of classrooms and lockers.
Being in the middle of town meant some property restrictions, with the baseball field just to the west on Seminary Street near the U.S. Shoe Factory building being utilized for baseball in the spring; while a track located behind Jefferson-Craig enabled track meets to be held. Cross country courses were laid out in different areas around town.
That was also a time in which organized sports for girls had not yet been required, so the girls took part in intramurals.
And then, of course, there was basketball — king of the community, the area, and the state.
“Every town had a school and a team,” Bear said. “I think we had the smallest gym around except maybe for Moore’s Hill. Every game was packed. We were also about the only gym around that didn’t have a regulation-sized floor.”
“Loudest place I’ve ever been in,” Weaver — a member of the Warrior basketball team, said. “There was barely any out of bounds with the walls around. It was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think. The crowd was right on top of you.”
“Teams didn’t like to come and place us here,” Heath said. “Madison always came to play us, until we beat them here one year, then they never wanted to come back and play here. It was great.”
In the basement of the school was were the shop classes were located, and where teacher Fred Russell held court. The classmates also remember the FFA Building which sat on the north side of Seminary Street in a field, remembering that tobacco was raised and hung in the barn as a fundraiser for the FFA program.
All of the classmates agree that it was a much different time, but they wouldn’t trade their memories for anything.
Like when lunchtime came.
“We had an hour, and you could eat here in the cafeteria or you could go anywhere you wanted, as long as you were back for the afternoon,” Heath said.
“We always went over their to Zula’s,” Rowlett laughed, pointing to the east to a small building on the corner of Seminary and Main Cross that is now apartments. “See that porch? Imagine about 20-25 boys all sitting there eating their lunch. It was a pretty popular place to go.”
“There was the Package Store, too,” Bear said, referring to a restaurant that used to be where the Vevay-Switzerland County Foundation office on Ferry Street is now. “It was kind of a high school hangout. You’d order your food for the next day, and then you’d go and it would be ready and you’d pick it up. You didn’t really have enough time to wait in line, so it all worked out really well. Then you’d order your food for the next day.”
Weaver remembers eating in the cafeteria, and then going over to Zula’s to get a snack for later, noting that it was a long time between lunch and supper after school and then with basketball practice.
“Some of the kids drove to school,” Rowlett said. “They’d get in their cars and drive around town until it was time to come back to school. They’d ‘slide’ around the corner at Zula’s.”
Along with class time, high school also provided a lot of social time.
“We’d have a sock hop with a band after every basketball game,” Heath said. “Everyone came to the dances. The gym was always packed.”
And the gym also played host to the school’s prom each year.
“It was amazing what that gym looked like for prom,” Heath continued. “Mr. Jessup was our teacher and we’d all meet at his apartment (which is the second floor of the current newspaper office) and we’d roll crepe paper for hours. We’d hang it down and make walls, and put it up and put a ceiling in. When we got done, you’d never know that you were in the gym.”
“And back then, the juniors put it on for the seniors,” Bear said. “Those were the only ones who got to come. If you were dating someone who wasn’t a junior or senior, then you came by yourself.”
So as the class — these last Warriors — prepare for their 50-year reunion; does it seem like it’s been that long?
“No, it really doesn’t,” Weaver said. “In many ways it seems like yesterday; but time goes on.”
“You still see a lot of the kids you went to school with around here,” Rowlett said. “But we’re just a lot older now! It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.”
And being the last class to graduate from Vevay High School? To be the ‘Last Warriors’?
“That’s pretty special, I think,” Heath said. “The kids from the class of 69 went here, but they were the first Switzerland County class. We are the last ones from Vevay.”
“It’s something that we will always have,” Weaver said. “After us, there aren’t anymore. We are the last Warriors, and I think we take pride in that.”
‘The Last Warriors’.