highlights school days at VHS
Beth Rumsey, Staff Writer
From early beginnings as subscription schools, to
the creation of Versailles High School and before the consolidation
of the Holton and New Marion schools in 1966, School Life,
a three year project, retraces the history of public education in
Versailles and is full of anecdotal history, photos and remembrances.
According to author Dr. Alan Smith, It was a fun project.
Dr. Smith is the son of the late Alan Smith, longtime pharmacist
in Versailles and Katy Smith of Versailles. This book, School
Life: Remembrances of Versailles High School is available
for purchase at the Spencer Tyson Pharmacy and the Versailles and
Friendship branches of the Friendship State Bank.
The Versailles school system began in 1850 as subscription schools.
These were schools taught by a widow or an educated lady in her
home for a fee. As stated in School Life, the education
of pioneer children depended on the subscription schools. Early
studies included the 3 Rs and spelling and lasted only 45-60
days. It wasnt until 1887 that the Versailles School Board
officially recognized high school.
As the attendance of Versailles High School increased, buildings
grew to accommodate their needs.
Community involvement was vital to the success of a small town school.
Examples of this can be seen in the construction of the first schools.
Someone would donate the land; others would donate materials for
construction and everyone would pitch in and build the school. Personal
responsibility was assumed by the community, says Smith. Another
example found in the book is of Dr. A.G. Williams offering free
dental examinations for every child enrolled in the Versailles school.
Chris Meyer, editor of School Life said, If the
community isnt standing behind the school, it is sure to fail.
Meyer is the Marketing and Training Director for the Friendship
State Bank. He is married to Cassandra, niece of Dr. Smith. Meyer
also owns Four-Sep Publications in Friendship, which published School
Athletics were a very important part of the Versailles School, as
well as the community. Athletics tapped into a spirit of community
and competition. It raised the level of entertainment. Even if you
were a spectator, you could still be involved, says Smith. Early
basketball games were played in a community building until the completion
of the Tyson Auditorium in 1950. Tyson Auditorium allowed Versailles
to host the Ripley County Tourney and sectional games. It also meant
Versailles was able to play against larger schools in home and away
School Life is filled with photos from over the years.
Included are drawings and photos of the early schools. One can mark
the changes of appearance of the Versailles School from 1887 to
1938. Also of interest are the senior class photos from 1929 to
1966, along with candid photos of picnics, class trips, and class
plays. One should not overlook the basketball photos, dating from
1911. Meyer stated that the amount of research that went into this
book, especially the basketball pictures, was impressive.
Scattered throughout the photos are first hand accounts of school
days. There are contributions from Ken Akers, Mary Margaret and
William (Gus) Moorhead, and Marion Jackson. The first hand accounts
make it [the book] more personal, says Smith. Read a sample from
the Versailles Breezes, the school paper. Learn about school plays
and senior trips from the students point of view. Discover
how the basketball team became known as the Lions. One can read
about the coach who, while attempting to teach a ball player how
to slide into third base, accidentally catches his pants on fire
due to matches in his pocket.
Special thanks were given to The Versailles Republican, the Ripley
County Historical Society, and the Tyson Library for providing reference
materials for the publication.
School Life is a fascinating history of school in Versailles.
Follow the time line, gaze at the photos perhaps finding parents
or grandparents and one will discover the traditions that are still
followed by students today. As Marion Jackson, contributor to School
Life stated, We were among the luckiest high school
students ever in Indiana history.