Ken Plum: Hail to Shenandoah, Hail

The Board of Directors of Shenandoah High School Alumni Association gave me the “Distinguished Alumnus” Award at its annual banquet last weekend.

Last year I wrote about my graduating class’s fiftieth reunion that I could not attend because I was out of the country. I did attend this year and was honored by the recognition. More than 20 of the 41 graduates of my class were present as were our two class sponsors, Mrs. Kite and Mrs. Foltz. The theme of this year’s banquet was “Celebrating 72 Years of Heritage and Fellowship.” The Alumni Association has been in existence since 1939 with an annual celebration possibly making it the oldest such association in Virginia. The class after mine in 1961 was the last to graduate from Shenandoah High School; it was turned into an elementary school when the three high schools in Page County were consolidated into two.

School buildings have occupied the site of the current Shenandoah Elementary School since 1884. The first two people to graduate from high school at the site graduated in 1911. Various buildings with different configurations occupied the site over the years with one burning down and another being torn down. The core of the current structure was built in about 1920 with a more modern addition constructed in the 1980s. The original building has hallways lined with ceramic blocks about six feet high. The gymnasium was the smallest in the area being known as the “cracker box.” Some really good teams came out of that modest gym. Our small school of about 150 high school students had some problems producing a successful football team. One year as I recall we had only twelve players.

I attended Grove Hill Elementary School for my first seven years. There were no public kindergartens in those days, but I felt I had excellent teachers for all the other years. As were all schools in Virginia at that time, Grove Hill Elementary and Shenandoah High School were segregated. The half-dozen Black children in the community were bused to Luray where there was a regional school for Black children. It never made any sense to us as young children and makes even less sense today. Grove Hill closed as a school this year.

As I said to the more than 200 people at the banquet, I learned the basic values at Shenandoah High School that I needed to live life. I learned the value of education and became an educator and legislative advocate for quality education. From my parents and members of the community I learned the value of honesty, decency, and hard work. A long-standing organization like the Alumni Association provides a great opportunity to look back to have a greater appreciation of how we got where we are.

As our school song opened, “Hail to Shenandoah, Hail. Hail to our School.”

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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