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)