Graduates who said goodbye to Valley Heights Secondary School in the 1980s were back in Bear territory last Saturday night.
The Delhi German Home was decked out in the Langton high school colours of purple and white and lots of references to their team, the Voyager Bears.
Being a former Bear on the school’s volleyball, basketball, football and soccer teams made for 1987 grad Rob McCready’s best memories.
“It was a great school,” he said at the June 22 reunion dinner and dance. “Everybody got along.”
It could be the small size of the school – there were about 520 students when McCready graduated – or that they were all rural kids bused in from St. Williams, Turkey Point, Long Point, Courtland, Tillsonburg and all places in between, that made the students so close.
“We all knew each other,” said McCready. “Most of us either worked in tobacco or our families grew tobacco.”
He was one of four core organizers of the reunion, along with Rob Kelle, April Crabb and Wanda Backus-Kelly. Although the event was a celebration, it was also a tribute to the former classmates who have passed away.
Crabb said they were shocked when they counted 97 people who have died since graduating from Valley Heights in the 1980s.
“It started small and morphed into something big,” Crabb, who graduated in 1989, said of the event. “We need to stay connected.”
Although last Saturday was about partying, Sunday’s open house at Valley Heights included a memorial slide show and a tree planting in the Mike Nikkon Memorial Garden on the school grounds. Nikkon was a beloved football coach at the school in the ’80s.
Andy’s Drive-In in Langton, where Crabb said students would skip out of classes for lunch, brought a food truck, and a chance to reminisce, to the open house.
“We called it the school on the hill in the valley,” said Crabb. “It was very much a family. Everyone looked out for each other.”
Cassie Kelle, a 1987 graduate and sister to Crabb, came all the way from California for the reunion.
A cheerleader for five years, Kelle said one of her best memories is of beating the dominating Simcoe Composite School squad in a 1985-86 cheerleading competition.
She also recalls fondly the tight-knit feeling amongst the Valley Heights student population.
“There were the people you shared a bus with and the people you hung out with at school. You knew almost everyone in every grade. The popular kids, the mean kids, the jocks, the geeks.
“It was a really good experience.”