Vic High History 1974-2020

VIC HIGH ARCHIVES HISTORY 1974-2020

It all started in 1974 when a Centennial Celebration Committee (CCC) was formed by then-principal Duncan Lorimer and chaired by Laurie Wallace (1930) to oversee the big 100-year celebration of Victoria High School, 1876-1976. The CCC was composed of many alumni members from many decades, all given very different responsibilities. For example, Dr. Peter Smith (1949) was the History rep. and his extensive research and writing produced the famous black and gold, Come Give A Cheer book. (a few copies still available to purchase from the Archives)

Between 1974 and 1976, Lorimer granted teacher Faith Reimer one spare period a day to pull together the VHS Archives. ‘Old stuff’ had been stored in cupboards, closets, under the stairs, in the attic and many other nooks and crannies around the school. The ‘old stuff’ included boxes of Camosuns, trophies, uniforms, registration cards, exam results, photographs, textbooks, attendance records, and more. It was all gathered up and stored in a spare room off the Andrews gym.

Faith Reimer taught English and Social Studies and had no experience in archive work so she enlisted her son Derek Reimer (1965) who worked in the Provincial Archives and he helped her to set up a basic system to accession (catalogue) what was in the store room. At this early stage Faith also sent a request out to past graduates and teachers to donate pertinent historical items to the collection and materials flowed in.

Archives’ Volunteers Help Produce the 1976 Centennial
The elaborate and wonderfully organized Centennial Celebration was held in May 1976 and was an ‘over the top’ success. The offspring of this celebration were the Come Give A Cheer book celebrating Vic High’s first 100 years, the creation of the Vic High Archives, and the formation of the VHS Alumni Association (VHSAA).

Faith went back to full time teaching but continued with Archive work until she retired in 1980. Little was done with the collection stored in the gym store room until John Boel (1947) attended a meeting to plan a 1994 event commemorating the 80th anniversary of the opening of the current building. Lawrie Wallace was once again chairing the organizing committee. He asked John to resurrect the Archives and John agreed to take on the job, because in his words “saying NO to Lawrie was like saying NO to God”.

The collection, still stored in the gym store room, was moved into Room 105 which became the dedicated Archives public space. John enlisted 2 dedicated volunteers, June (Short) Ferguson and Catherine (Kay) Firth, both 1946 grads. These 3 volunteers sorted and organized the materials onto shelving built by Fairey Tech students under the direction of shop teacher Fred Packford (1948).

Archives’ Official Opening
In preparation for the official opening of the Vic High Archives in 1996, these dedicated volunteers also created the photo gallery that hung on the north and south walls of the Roper Gym running track until its removal for 2020-2022 building upgrades. Packford also built the oak and plexiglass frames that enclosed the photo collection.

The official opening of the Archives also marked the 120th year of VHS (1876). The 120th year program lists several dignitaries attending the ceremony in the Auditorium – the Lieutenant Governor, the local MP, David Anderson (1955), the Mayor, the School Board Chair Donna (Cranton) Jones (1957) and others.

In a speech delivered at the opening, alumni Dr. Peter Smith recalls that after the CCC wrapped up he spoke to Willard Ireland, then the Provincial Archivist, and suggested the VHS collection be transferred to the Royal B.C.Museum. Mr. Ireland agreed that the VHS collection was important but he felt it should be housed and exhibited in the school that owned it, where it would be perpetually guarded and preserved by the Vic High Alumni Association.

Many volunteers have stepped up to help out over the years. Jim Connor (retired VHS steam engineer and custodian), Frank Taylor (1955), Peter Denby (PE, computer teacher and school librarian, 1980-1997), Gary Jones (Vice Principal, 1992-1996) and his wife Valerie Jones, Peter Smith (1949). In addition to writing the official history of Vic High’s first 100 years, Peter then volunteered in the Archives from 2002 until his untimely death in 2006.

Gary and Valerie Jones produced and dedicated 2 jumbo 3-ringed binders of students who died in WW I and WWII. The Commonwealth Graves Commission assisted with their research. These fabulous binders are accessioned into the Archives.

Family Volunteer Tradition Continues
In June 2006, Jill Wallace (1966) came to volunteer. She was a walking VHS encyclopedia with VHS in her veins, probably inherited from her father Lawrie Wallace. She was still active until she passed away in 2011. Anne Boldt (1967) started in 2009-2015 and returned in 2019 to carry on as Archives Co-ordinator. Debbie (Parkinson) Blackie (1967) came on board in 2010 and was there until her untimely death in 2019. Linda Smith(1967) joined Debbie to design and build the Archive displays and photo collages around the school and worked on displays for the 100 Anniversary for the school building in 2014.

In 2007, Ken Roueche (1963) spent many hours researching and writing the history of Fairey Tech, calling the project Fairey Tech – the Other Vic High. His work is incomplete but has been accessioned for another researcher and writer to finish.

Allan (Fergie) Andison (1968) spent four summers photographing the school ‘the way it was’ pre-seismic upgrade 2020-2022. His wonderful photographs are published in a new Vic High 2020 photo book, (available for sale on this site) and his virtual tours and photos will continue to be added to this website.

Barrie Moen (1969) has researched and written many Tales from the Attic (posted on this website), Shirley (Beecham) Kasper (1969) scanned the entire collection of Camosuns to make available digitally, and Eric Earl (1969) converted Camosun scans into easily-viewed files and contributes hundreds of hours of tech wizardry creating videos and other digital records.

More recent volunteers have also included Elise Polkinghorne, Kathleen MacDonald (1973), and Anne McKeachie (1968). Linda Baker (1969) helped with cataloguing and packing up the collections to be stored during the seismic upgrade, and she and Fergie created the Vic High 2020 photo book.

Archives on the Move Again
After the 125th Anniversary (May 2001) the Archives moved again to Room 100 just north of the Foods Lab. It remained there until 2011 when the new Fairey Tech addition was built. Once again the Archives moved around the corner to another room 100, this time across from the Foods lab. It remained there until the big pack-up in June 2020 for the seismic upgrade. All 350 boxes in the collection as well as furnishings are now stored in temporary lockers in the Fairey Tech concourse until 2022.

On June 1st, 2010, after a 36 year involvement with the VHS Archives a tea was held to honor Faith Reimer and Room 100 was named the Faith Reimer Room. Faith had personally accessioned 1837 manuscripts, photos, artifacts and books into the VHS Archive collection.

In 2012, the Alumni Association and the Archives were honoured by the B.C. Historical Federation for strengthening and preserving the heritage and archives of Victoria High School, for the next and future generations.
While the Archives room itself was named after Reimer, in 2020 the VHSAA voted to update the Archives’ name to the Vic High Archives & Museum to better reflect its actual collections, displays and operation.

While these school-owned collections are in safe storage during the seismic upgrade, volunteers remain busy setting up a searchable database of the cataloging records, making future searches not so dependent on a volunteer’s memory!

And of course, we’re very excited about our new space in the updated Vic High, just inside the expanded Fernwood Street entrance, with more storage in the basement. We’re looking forward to unpacking and setting up these precious archived collections and opening the doors to everyone!

Submitted by Anne Boldt ( 1967)

The Great War Project

The present Vic High building opened in 1914, the same year that the Great War began, and its early years were dominated by Canada’s coming-of-age in that unprecedented conflict. Students cultivated a “victory garden” where the grass hockey field is now, and many students and teachers joined up and went overseas. The beautiful war memorials in Vic High’s main hall always impress visitors to the school.

As the 100th anniversary of the war approached, there was an upsurge of interest in Vic High’s wartime experiences. In 2012 our avenue of memorial trees, originally planted in 1917, was replanted and rededicated. That same year, we were honoured to present a graduation certificate to one of school’s Japanese-Canadian students who had been denied this opportunity in 1942. (See stories in both our newsletter and bulletin dated Spring 2012, under the News tab above.)

The Alumni Association’s “Great War Project” was launched in 2013 by Dr. Barry Gough, the Association’s chair and an eminent Canadian historian, at a national conference in Ottawa. Here is a video of his presentation.

The Great War Project culminated in book, published in November 2014, titled From Classroom to Battlefield: Victoria High School and the First World War, written by Barry Gough. Digital and print editions are now available: for further information, click on the “New Book” link at the right of this screen.

Dr. Barry Gough is a Vic High grad (VHS 1956) who returned to the school as a teacher in 1960s. Barry later established an impressive career teaching Canadian history at Wilfrid Laurier University, before retiring to Victoria in 2004. He has published many books on Canadian history, mostly in the area of maritime history. His recent books include Fortune’s a River: The Collision of Empires in Northwest America (2007) and Juan de Fuca’s Strait: Voyages in the Waterway of Forgotten Dreams (2012).

VHS Band Trip, 1965, to Clinton BC

Read Stephen Fawcett’s brief memoir of the trip.

Remembering Debbie Blackie

Debbie Blackie, Passionate Archives Volunteer
by Barrie Moen

An unexpected shadow was cast over the Vic High Archives on August 27, 2019 with the sudden passing of Archives volunteer Debbie Blackie (nee Parkinson, VHS 1967). A passionate contributor to the growth of the Archives in the past ten years, she was always encouraging volunteers, guests, and donors alike, and visiting the Archives was always a pleasure.

Debbie loved to research any subject associated with Vic High. However, her unique skills were showcased when she and her friend Linda Smith began creating hallway displays featuring historic and contemporary photos, images and articles of clothing from school clubs and teams. Their artefact shadow-box displays, featured in a variety of areas in the school, were of museum quality, and because of a limited budget, the expense was often covered from their own pockets.

Debbie also developed the idea of a page on the Vic High Alumni website (www.vichigh.com) called “Tales from the Attic,” to publish intriguing articles offering further insight into the history of the school.

A skilled negotiator, Debbie approached me offering the opportunity to write some articles for the new website feature.

“What does it pay?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she replied.
“Well, if you can double that, I might be interested,” I countered.
“I believe I can convince the Alumni Association to find those funds,” she surmised, and an unusual literary friendship blossomed.

At her memorial service, it became obvious that Debbie was well loved by her associates during her 35 years within the Greater Victoria hospital system. As one speaker mentioned, Debbie was a private person who treated her various groups of friends with empathy and respect. However, the speaker noted, in order to avoid any conflicts she never allowed any cross-pollination of these groups, so the speaker was overjoyed at the large, diverse crowd gathered to honour Debbie’s life.

Anne Boldt (VHS 1967) and Kathleen McDonald (VHS 1973), with the assistance of Alumni Board member Anne McKeachie (VHS 1968), will now take on the duties of accessioning and organizing the VHS Archives for temporary storage during the seismic upgrading of the school. Setting up the new Vic High Archives and Museum will be much anticipated, with the school’s commitment to expanding the space for these precious articles and to ensuring easy public accessibility.

We know the new Vic High Archives and Museum area will reflect Debbie’s diligent spirit, best summed up in her usual Tuesday morning greeting in the Archives: “Oh, there you are. What have you been up to? I have something for you to do.”

Barrie Moen (VHS 1969) is also a dedicated Archives volunteer.
You can find a link to Deb’s newspaper obit under the News tab (In Memoriam – Grads and Supporters).


Vic High History…1876 and Counting

Victoria High School is the oldest public high school in western Canada. It opened on August 7, 1876, with an enrolment of 12 girls and 22 boys.

Vic High has had four successive homes. The first was a log building with two classrooms, located on the grounds of what is now Central Middle School. Only six years later, the facilities were so inadequate that a new building – a brick annex attached to the public school next door – opened in 1882. This too was soon outgrown and a new building opened in 1902 on an adjacent site. This imposing new school at Fernwood and Yates was designed by the eminent architect Francis Rattenbury, who was also responsible for such local landmarks as the Provincial Legislature, the CP Terminal Building, and the Empress Hotel.

On May 1, 1914, the fourth Victoria High School opened a few blocks north at Fernwood and Grant. This state-of the-art facility, designed by local architect C. Elwood Watkins, cost some $460,000, at that time the most expensive school ever built in British Columbia. Its principal was Samuel J. Willis, who later became BC’s first Deputy Minister of Education. With an enrolment of 478, the new school had plenty of room to also house Victoria College, whose classes were taught by Willis and other senior Vic High faculty.

The Fairey Technical-Vocational Unit officially opened in 1949, across a playing field from the main school, and major new wings were added in 1956 and 2011. The 1956 addition provided a new gymnasium, classrooms, and art and music studios, while the later one replaced the obsolete Fairey Tech facility. The school’s enrolment peaked at 1540 students in 1963.

The school’s centennial celebrations in 1976, chaired by former Deputy Premier L.J. Wallace (VHS 1930), attracted some 10,000 alumni and friends. One highlight was an original historical musical presentation at the Memorial Arena, produced by staff, students, and a team of volunteer theatre professionals led by the popular teacher Tommy Mayne (VHS 1935). The proceeds from this celebration resulted in the establishment of endowment funds, now exceeding $200,000, and an Alumni Association that oversees them. Another legacy of the centennial was a lavishly illustrated history, Come Give a Cheer by Dr. Peter Smith (VHS 1949), whose father H.L. Smith had been the school’s longest-serving principal (1934-55). Still another was the creation of the school’s award-winning Archives, which are managed by Alumni volunteers. The Association went on to produce major celebrations in 2001 (Vic High 125), in 2008 (a homecoming for grads of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s), and in 2014 (the 100th anniversary of the present Vic High building).

In 2020, after months of public debate and a year of planning, the building closed for a major seismic upgrade budgeted at over $77 million. Classes continue at the Vic High Topaz Campus (former S.J. Willis Education Centre) and Fernwood (Fairey Tech) until the renovated building reopens in 2022 with a capacity of 1000 students.

Finding Their Way to the Stars

Finding Their Way to the Stars. A profile of two Fairfield boys who became internationally known physicists, and who inspired a new interest in astronomy at present-day Vic High. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

Mrs Evans Takes the Baton

Mrs Evans Takes the Baton
by Denis Johnston (VHS 1967)

 John C. Newbury – Head of His Class

John C. Newbury – Head of His Class
(Vic High’s and Western Canada’s First Governor General’s Medal Winner)
by John Adams and Denis Johnston (both VHS 1967)

Cumby’s Ghost

Cumby’s Ghost. He was perhaps the most accomplished high-school coach that no one’s ever heard of. Is that why his ghost might still walk the halls of Vic High? by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

Sewing Club, Pep Meetings and Noon Dances, One Girl’s Senior Matric Year in 1940-41

Sewing Club, Pep Meetings and Noon Dances, One Girl’s Senior Matric Year in 1940-41. Ethel Rowe graduated from Vic High in 1941. Her granddaughter Stephanie Warner recently uncovered Ethel’s high-school pictures and 1940-1941 Camosun yearbook. She came to the Vic High Archives to learn more about Ethel’s Grade 12 year and about school culture at that time. by Stephanie Ann Warner.

The Lost Key

The Lost Key  A tale of the opening day celebrations at Victoria High School and the presentation of a ceremonial key to the front entrance. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

Remembering Lieutenant Frank Constant Hall

Remembering Lieutenant Frank Constant Hall  A tale of remembrance and personal sacrifice. A reminder of the brave soldiers whose names appear on the memorial in the entrance foyer of Victoria High School. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

The Lost Boys of ’67

The Lost Boys of ’67 “This year is sure to be the best yet,” said George “Porky” Andrews.  A look back at the best BC high-school basketball team team that never was, and the only national high-school basketball championship that ever occurred in Canada. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

Artifacts in the Air Ducts

Artifacts in the Air Ducts Not all artifacts are found in grid-marked diggings by archaeologists toiling in the sun. Some can be found with a glance in the right direction at Vic High. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

Fire at Will

Fire at Will  A true tale about the danger of hanging out in the old attic back in ’44.  The adventure of  “Sylvia Corbett and the Whistling Bullet.” by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

The Jacket from Vic High

The Jacket from Vic High  A recent email request to our Archives uncovered this story about a boy from England whose life was changed by coming to Vic High for one year (1968-69). by Geoff Bell

A Time for T.

A Time for T. Why do all the Vic High team names begin with T? A simple question leads our Archives volunteer on a search through Vic High’s athletic glory of the first half of the 20th century, culminating one of the most bizarre basketball games the Vic High boys ever played! by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

A Thomson Cup Comes Home

A Thomson Cup Comes Home The BC Boys Rugby Championship Trophy that Vic High won during the 1925-1926 school year is donated to the Archives. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

Victoria High School in the 1950s

Victoria High School in the 1950s. A Vic High grad recalls some of the influences that led to his successful career as a particle physicist, in an article originally written for “Vic High 125” in 2001. by A.J. Stewart Smith (VHS 1955)

The Block V

The Block V. Have you ever wondered why you didn’t receive a Block V? This intriguing story explains what accomplishments were needed and what  the associated number meant. by the Archives team

Archive Treasure 1884

Archive Treasure 1884. It was probably a Christmas present: a delicate hand-painted autograph book used by a Vic High girl from 1884 to 1887. Recently it was donated to our collection by her granddaughters. by the Archives team

A Brief (Video) History of Vic High

A Brief (Video) History of Vic High. This 5-minute video was made by Camosun College students about 1990. Digitized by Eric Earl (VHS 1968) and Kal Czotter (VHS 1972)

Grads in the Attic

Grads in the Attic. A place of history and mystery! Take a virtual tour of the attic to find your name, or to take the tour you never got to experience. Photos by Syvia Michalewicz, digitized by Eric Earl (VHS 1968)

Mr. Smith’s Walking Stick

Mr. Smith’s Walking Stick. In 1893 a group of Vic High students presented their departing teacher with an engraved silver-handled walking stick — and now it’s come home from Alberta! A true treasure that even our Archives volunteers didn’t know existed. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969) with design by Eric Earl (VHS 1968)

Vic High and Ice Hockey

Vic High and Ice Hockey. A review of the early history of ice-hockey in Victoria and particularly at Victoria High School. by Barrie Moen (VHS 1969)

The Play’s the Thing

The Play’s the Thing. An illustrated history of Shakespeare productions in the new Vic High Auditorium during World War I. by Stephanie Ann Warner

Happy or Helsinki?

Happy or Helsinki? In preparation for the 1952 Olympics in Finland, the Canadian Olympic Association invited Vic High grad Norma Stewart to Montreal to train for Canada’s swim team. But for Norma, this presented an agonizing choice! by Helen Raptis (VHS 1980)

A Soccer Ball Rolls Through It

A Soccer Ball Rolls Through It. A century of “the beautiful game” at Vic High. by Barrie Moen and Doug Puritch (VHS 1969)

Alumni Oral History

Some current Vic High students recently interviewed grads from the 1930s to ’70s, in a project celebrating the City of Victoria’s 150th anniversary. Click Here to see the results.