Friday, February 8, 2013

DeVeaux School – Niagara Falls, New York

Being semi laid up for the moment, I’ve been digging around for blogging materials.  As I browsed through our photos it occurred to me that, from the 9th through the 12th grade, I’d attended an historic old-fashioned college preparatory school that had been around for more than 100 years.  There aren’t very many of these ‘prep’ schools remaining in business in the USA…and that’s too bad. 

 
Yes…This is my senior year prep school graduation photo from DeVeaux! Laurie thinks that I looked like a young Clark Kent…aka Superman.  I do know that I was about 6’ 1”, weighed in at around 205, (in decent shape from football, wrestling and track), and I still had a full head of hair!  Man 'o man, those days are gone for sure!
 
 
The picture above is from about 1961 and I copied it from my Senior Yearbook.  It shows the three interconnected primary buildings at DeVeaux School, a Diocesan School of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.

The campus was deeded by Judge Samuel DeVeaux in the mid 1850’s and it was originally operated by the Episcopal Church as “The DeVeaux College for Orphans and Destitute Children”.   From the 1870’s until 1950, course work included mandatory military training with cadets dressed in uniform in the tradition of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  
 
This photo was taken from about the same angle as the previous picture.  Laurie took this photo when she and I visited the then deserted campus back in 1980.  At this point, the property was under the ownership of Niagara University and it was already in a sad state of neglect.

More on Judge Samuel DeVeaux… He was born in New York City in 1789.  When he was 15, he went to work for a Land Office in Canandaigua NY and he also clerked in a local store.  At 19 he moved to the Niagara Frontier and was appointed Commissary at Fort Niagara and later on he was the Postmaster for Leroy NY.  He married a Canadian woman right in the middle of the War of 1812.  After his first wife died, the judge married her sister, ran a store near the Niagara River and he acquired several large parcels of land.  He went on to serve as school commissioner, Justice of the Peace, as a member of the Board of Directors for the International Suspension Bridge and as a key investor in the Lockport and Niagara Railroad.   
When Judge DeVeaux died in 1852, he left a portion of his estate to the benefit of Niagara Falls and to the Episcopal Church to establish “DeVeaux College”.
 
This is the first of the primary buildings shown in the preceding photos.  Van Rensselaer Hall was dedicated in 1857…and as you can see, it was an impressive structure for the time!  I attended classes in this building and the school’s offices were centered here.  The infirmary was also located on the third floor.  This classic building has been torn down.  Laurie and I took this photo in 1980.

The infirmary…ahhh…memories!  At one point, I got sick and whatever it was settled in my shoulders.  Between the pain and a very high fever, the school administration decided that I might have polio.  They called an ambulance and 2 poor EMT’s had to carry me down from the 3rd floor!  Prior to my current stay in the hospital for hip surgery, this was the only time that I ever spend a night in a hospital.  The ambulance ride with sirens blaring was such an adrenaline ‘kick’ that I felt much better on arrival at the hospital…
 
This photo, also from our 1980 trip, shows Ambrose Chapel and Monro Hall, (1894) and Patterson Hall…the latter really an 1866 extension of Van Rensselaer Hall.  All of these structures have also sadly fallen to the wrecking ball!

Dining at the school was an interesting experience… I think that the dining room was in Patterson Hall.  In any case, the rule was that the first to finish his meal was the first to get seconds!  There was never enough food on the table, (family style), for everyone to have a second helping… I became a very fast eater!  We couldn’t pick up fried chicken to eat it.  I got so I could strip all of the meat from a chicken breast with a knife and fork and then consume it in just a couple of minutes…
 
This view of the campus is from my 1961 Yearbook.  The building on the left is one end of Schoellkopf Hall, the dormitory for the boys boarding at DeVeaux.  You can see Van Rensselaer Hall across the square to the right… Shoellkopf Hall is still standing.
 
 
This is our photo of Schoellkopf Hall from 1980.  During my senior year I was a dormitory Prefect, responsible for the students on half of a floor.  My room was the first window on the extended portion of the building on the third floor.  Prefects had rooms to themselves but most of the boarding students doubled up.  The building housed 48 rooms.  There was a student lounge in the basement with a TV.  As you might imagine in the late 50’s and early 60’s, our favorite TV show was American Bandstand…as girls were a bit hard to come by at school!
 
 
I don’t know when this very depressing photo of Schoellkopf Hall was taken… The building is one of the few still standing on the DeVeaux Campus.  It was built in 1926. 

My graduating class consisted of 27 boarding and day students.  I’ve lost touch with the entire group…with my last contact being in the early 2000’s.  There never was an alumni association of any significance…
The members of my graduating class were as follows: Donald Phillip Alderman (Lewiston NY); Douglas Beale (Orchard NY); John Jeffery Bingenheimer (Lewiston Heights NY); Thomas Hewitt Combs (Batavia NY); William Edward Dunn Jr. (Lewiston NY); Edward Harold Fairchild (Bradford PA); Bruce Addison Penner (Oneida NY); Paul Henry Gross (Sanborn NY); Thomas Curry Kirkpatrick (Lewiston, NY); Jere Alan Krieg (Grosse Pointe MI); Robert Charles Kulak (Sanborn NY); Allan Chauncey Lyhford, Jr. (Mayville NY); Stanley Barron Mattison (Arlington VA); Robert John McGovern (Lewiston NY); John Clarke Newman (Lewiston NY); Richard Wilson Orser (Bay Village OH); Thomas Frederick Palmer (Ogdensburg NY); Eric Theodore Popp (Niagara Falls NY); Robert Wolfe Quine (Akron OH); Thomas Edward Reid (Niagara Falls NY); Walter Brayton Rogers, Jr. (Pittsburgh PA); Gary Howard Scott (Niagara Falls NY); Timothy Noel Southwick (Jackson MI); John Kay Strickland, Jr. (Lewiston NY); John Frederick Wildanger (Flint MI); Jonathon Jarvis Woolverton (Niagara Falls NY).  I graduated under the name of David Jeffrey M. Thomson, as I was using my stepfather’s last name.
 
I lifted this photo from the Internet.  It’s the old gym or auditorium.  We held various events in this building, including the rather rare co-ed dances.  You can see the old power plant just to the left of the auditorium.

We could go off campus on the weekends… There was one year when I went to the movies as many as 4 times per weekend!  Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night and then a Sunday matinee… I fell ‘in love with Doris Day, Sandra Dee, Annette Funicello, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Margaret and a bevy of others.  We watched some TV, visited Niagara Falls itself, played sports, etc…and we studied too!
 
This photo was taken from my yearbook.  It shows the new gym and pool as well as one of the faculty homes.  The car in the photo looks like a Hillman…could have been Alec Pudwell’s.  He was the school Chaplin.

Sports… Yes, we had lots to choose from. (Soccer, Football, Wrestling, Swimming, Basketball, Tennis, Track, Cross Country, Baseball and Golf) I lettered in Track and Football.  Due to the size of the school, we played 6-man Football.  Primary opponents were generally other private or small public schools in upper New York State such as Park, Pebble Hill, Harley, Nichols, Ridley, Allendale and Hillfield.
 
This photo shows the large expanse of land around the school.  The property butted up to the Niagara escarpment and the Whirlpool Park to the right of this picture.  Originally the school controlled over 300 acres but the campus was eventually whittled down to 51 acres.

As with many college preparatory schools, DeVeaux fell on hard times as public schools improved.  I graduated in 1961, the Episcopal Diocese ceased operations at the school and in 1971, it sought another organization to accept the task of taking care of the historic structures.  At one time or another, Niagara County, Niagara Falls, Niagara University, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services and the Niagara County Community College have owned or leased the property.
 
This is the oldest structure still standing in the DeVeaux School Historic District.  This brick barn or carriage house was built in 1863 and there are stories that it may have served as part of the underground railway for runaway slaves.  Recent pressure has forced the state to cover the roof with a plastic covering to prevent further deterioration.

In 2000, the state of New York purchased the campus and vowed to transform the 51 acre property into “DeVeaux Woods State Park”.  The property includes 5 acres of rare old growth forest…with some trees over 255 years old.   Unfortunately, most of the old historic buildings have been torn down and very little is left to mark what was once a vibrant institution for young men.  I learned to study here, to win here, to accept responsibility and take accountability here.  The school is gone, but the memories hold strong.  This was the start I needed to be able to succeed in life, the business world and eventually to be able to retire comfortably here in East Tennessee.
Thanks to www.leroypennysavernews.com and Lynne Belluscio for much of the background information in this blog.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for this little historical venture down my memory lane!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave  

40 comments:

  1. Looks like a nice place to attend school and you were a real stud. My K-9 neighborhood school in WV has been de-comissioned and it saddens me a little.

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  2. Wow only 27 students, I am surprised they could get by with so few students! Beautiful buildings.

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    1. FYI...While my graduating class had only 27 students, the school itself included grades 7 through 12. Even at only 25 students per class, we had around 150 students at any given time. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  3. Dave, it's wonderful to have photos like these to share with your friends and family. It looks like it was great place to come of age. I hope your recovery is still on track. Have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

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  4. Dave, I attended DeVeaux, and as I write this, I am looking at my 1961 Chevron. I don't recall ever hearing a nickname for you, but right next to your photo is that of Wildanger; I know he had one -- wallbanger? humdinger? -- something like that. I am in with the sophomores, second row center. Have you ever corresponded with your classmates? Rich Wynes

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    1. Rich, I was hoping that someone who had attended DeVeaux or who at least knew about the school would pick up on this blog. I checked out your photo...nice jacket! I never had a nickname that stuck until one of my guards called me Big Daddy Dave in front of his supervisor at Montgomery Ward. FYI...Wildanger signed my yearbook "Danger". The last classmate that I corresponded with (and talked to) was Tom Reid back around 2000. I haven't been able to find anyone else. I hope that your life has gone well since DeVeaux! Mine certainly did... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  5. Dave,

    Thank you, yes my life has gone well, although there've been interesting periods, as in that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Overall, no complaints; I am much blessed.

    The last former classmate I ran into was Gary Rogers, back in 1969. In 1980 my 8th-grade biology teacher Don Loker contacted me. He was a researcher at the N.F. Public library when a fellow from Silicon Valley contacted him requesting information about a 65 Corvette that I'd owned back in 1967. Don must have been a pretty resourceful researcher, because he managed to locate me even though I lived in Vermont at the time. This was before search engines of course, and before anybody but Al Gore knew about the internet.

    Thinking about nicknames: My surname was easy pickings for the mischievous mind of a prep-school kid. Three of my appellations were: "Weenies," "Wine-O," and "Weiner." But by far the most clever one probably revealed the influence of Alec Pudwell: "Wynas Aquinas."

    Best Regards, Rich

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  6. Rich, I've been a life long stamp collector and Don Loker was our Stamp Club advisor. I never had him for any classed. He was very much into detail and I'm not surprised that he was able to run you down...even in the early or 'primitive' electronic age. I really liked Alec Pudwell... The worst (most sad) teacher I had in my senior year was Thomas Nelson. He was 'really' old and he just couldn't control the physics class. Take Care, Dave

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  7. Dave, I enjoyed the photos and history of DeVeaux. I attended for about three weeks in 1961. Seems I was a bit too rebelious and was booted out. Sad about the demise of such schools as I am opposed to public schooling. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Gary Fishbaugh, Allegany NY

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  8. Nice job, Dave,

    I attended DeVeaux for one year 1968 and stopped in last year to see what had happened to the old school. Not much left except Shoellkopf Hall, the science building and Walker Hall.
    Thanks for posting this.
    Steve Waterhouse

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    1. I remember your name, Steve. I started at DeVeaux in '68; was on Mr. 'Wily Coyote' Mitchell's floor (Schoellkopf). If you remember Ed Gates, he passed a few years ago. Unfortunately, DeVeaux closed and I did my senior year elsewhere. I have a couple pictures I've gleened from the net, few even color, of the campus.

      link to dropbox folder - pics DeVeaux
      https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1gri3jv18yvg4e2/AAAF4kRLsJ3vsuz9zyYrx0o3a?dl=0

      Peter Wendt

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    2. Hi, Thanks for checking out the blog on DeVeaux. There will be another posting about DeVeaux this coming Saturday, October 31st. (On Halloween morning) The class of 1961 just had a reunion... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  9. I attended DeVeaux from '58 to'64...I do remember you...I was a first former that year...top row, 5th from the left...Rob Gold...nice job...I stopped by the campus last summer...six years worth of adolescent memories...a bygone era...other pics of me that year...varsity soccer...first row, 2ed from far right and j.v. basketball...1rst row...the only one with the different jersey...

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    1. Rob, Thanks for the feedback! I don't remember you in the dorm. We're you a day student? I've only been able to run down one of my fellow classmates...Tom Reid. It's hard to believe how time has flown by! I'm guessing that you're retired by now as well... I hope that all is going well for you and yours... Take Care, Dave (Thomson) Myers

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    2. Dave...I was a "day boy" for 6 years...'58 - '64...I still work in D.C. as a traffic anchor/reporter for Clear Channel (Total Traffic Network)...and thanks for the blog....Rob

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  10. Just searched for DeVeux and am glad to find this blog. My father, David Garbellano, attended DeVeux. I have a copy of a news paper clipping of him being on the honor role in February 1930. He spoke highly of the school and threatened to send me there as I was rebellious as as a young teenager. He went on to Cornell eventually getting a Masters in physics. He played a role at the Laurwence Radiation Lab in Berkeley.

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  11. Robert, I don't do Google Plus or Facebook but if you check back on this blog...note a small coincidence. Back in 1968 I spent 3 months on a summer project at Lawrence Radiation Lab...Berkeley and Livermore CA. Small world! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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    1. Thanks for the response. The world is getting smaller. In the summer of 1968, thanks to the connections of my father, I worked as an assistant to Hank Aceto (I think that was his name) up on the hill. I was between my sophomore and junior year at UCD. You may remember the protests at People's Park at that time. I stayed in an apartment on Euclid

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  12. Robert, Very interesting indeed! Talk about a coincidence... My role that summer was as part of a team of professors and one recently Masters degree graduate...myself...to evaluate the security controls and procedures at Lawrence Radiation Lab and to make recommendations. We were also developing a program for a BS in Security and Loss Prevention on behalf of the American Society for Industrial Security. At the end of the summer, I took a job with McDonnell Douglas HQ in St. Louis. My summer in CA was a great experience. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  13. I found all of this very interesting. Thank you. I live adjacent to the DeVeaux property for more than 30 years now. I am always searching for stories and photos, they aren't too easy to find any new ones.
    Take care.

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  14. Gina, There are lots of stories... The teacher we drove bats. The hazing of new students...which mostly stopped in my first year. Flaming paper airplanes in the science lab. The student who pulled a knife on me in my senior year. The food...which was very good indeed. Mostly great teachers and good kids...although shoplifting was popular for a couple of years. Almost everyone got accepted into college and that was the point of it all... Thanks for stopping by... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  15. Hi Dave,
    I just Googled to see what year DeVeaux closed its doors and found your blog. As you can tell from this writing I am still alive...but not really "and kicking!" Tough to get old! I am currently in touch with and emailing regularly Jere Krieg, Tom Reid and Barry Bedford (class of '63). I have been in touch intermittently with Walt Rogers, Tim Southwick, Al Lyford, and Curry Kirkpatrick. The class of '62 has had reunions the last 2 years. You may be aware, that Bob Quine (suicide) and Tom Palmer (cancer) are deceased, and I think I heard Bruce Fenner as well. I tried over the years to locate classmates, but didn't have any luck with those that have more common names, like yours. I was surprised that I never could locate Wildanger...can't be ton of those around! My email is dunn6643@gmail.com. Write anytime. Thanks for your efforts here! Oh, 1 more thing...I have a recollection of a boxing match between us, billed as "Tiger Thompson" vs "Bull Dog Dunn". As i recall, you got the better of it too!

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  16. Dave,
    What a fine tribute to our Alma Mater! I graduated from DeVeaux in 1964 after a 6 year hitch (just like Rob Gold who went by Bob in those days). Apparently you and I spent much quality time in the basement of Schoellkopf Hall because your inscription to me in the '61 Chevron is all about shooting pool. As for nicknames my all-time favorite came via Phil Pies, class of '62, when he christened me Palatso the Greasy Guinea. I kept in touch with a handful of former schoolmates over the years, but sad to say, all have passed on. So it was quite a rush to run across your blog and the replies. Ditto for your Nebraska blog. I spent many a young summer in Kearney, my mother's hometown. Thanks for putting all this out there. Tom Pallas

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  17. Tom, If I had your email address, I'd forward a list of DeVeaux Alumni to you. They just had a get together down in Florida. I didn't know that this group existed until about 30 days ago when Bill Dunn (61) read the blog and contacted me. Then I learned from him that Jere Krieg (61) lives in the same development that I do...about 8 miles from my house. Small world indeed! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave (Thomson)

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    1. tpallas46@gmail.com Thanks again.

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    2. Do you have information about the class of '68? We are trying to organize a get together, actually for any DeVeaux grads.
      Ebenweil@gmail.com

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  18. Dave, I have been going through my father's things and came across his Chevron yearbooks from the mid-1940s. He loved his time at DeVeaux and always spoke highly of the place. Do you know of an organization that is keeping documents/history from the school? I would like to give the things I have to a library or historical society if I can find one. Thanks. Kathy

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    1. Kathy, Since I posted this write-up on my blog site, I have connected with several classmates and other DeVeaux grads. I checked with a couple of them and we don't know of anyone who is collecting these materials. Perhaps the Niagara County Historical Society would be interested. Check them out at http://niagarahistory.org/. I'm sure that yearbooks from the mid-40s would be very interesting indeed. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  19. Thanks Dave! I sent them an e-mail.

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  20. Hello Dave,
    I am wondering if you have any pictures or lists of the underclassmen from your senior year ('61) at Deveaux. My father recently opened up to me that he attended a "boy's home prep school" located right by Niagara Falls his freshman year of high school. He doesn't remember the name, but I think it might be Deveaux.
    He doesn't have anything from his time at this boy's school, so I can't verify through his old things. Most of his younger childhood memories were lost when his father died. I'm reaching out to you in hopes of a yearbook or school program or something because my dad has severe dementia, and it's getting more difficult to connect with him every day. Since he has brought up his prep school time, but he can't remember the name of it, I thought this might be something to jog his memory.
    If you don't have anything, that's quite alright. You've come up in my internet search for information, so I figured I'd give it a shot and reach out to you.
    Thanks for your time.

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    1. RJ, If your father's last name is Swanee, there wasn't anyone by that name in our Freshman class in the 1960-1961 school year. I do have a photo of the Freshman class in my yearbook so if Swanee is just your on-line handle I may be able to help. Send my your email address and I can copy the photo and send it to you... However, I will be unable to do so for a couple of weeks. Take Care, Dave

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    2. My father's name is Robert Swanson. If there isn't anyone by that name in your yearbook, then he either wasn't there long enough to be in it, I have the wrong school, or I have the wrong year (any of these is possible). Thank you for your quick response. If there is a boy by that name in your yearbook, I would be happy to send you my email. Thanks so much!

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    3. RJ, I checked my yearbook...all grades...and unfortunately, no one named Swanson is pictured. Sorry... Take Care, Dave

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  21. Hey Dave,
    When I first stumbled across your blog a year ago, I was actually searching for an interesting story I'd read once before about DeVeaux from the 1940s. Here's the link http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/menagerie22.html

    All the Best,
    Tom

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  22. Hi Dave,
    Like others before me I stumbled onto your blog while Googling. I enjoyed reading all the comments left. I, too, graduated from DeVeaux, class of 1966. I started at DeVeaux in 7th grade the Fall of 1960 so I was familiar with your class. My experience is that the younger students know the older students but not vice versa, so I’m sure you don’t remember me. However, I dug out my yearbook and see that you signed it: “To Red, For an Irishman you’re not too bad a guy. However us Scotch are better…”. The school eliminated the younger classes so I was in the last 7th grade and the second to last 8th grade. When I graduated in 1966, two others and I were the last ever “6 year boys”. Through Facebook I’ve been able to connect with a couple of grads from the classes of ‘66 and ’67 but no reunion as yet so I’m envious you were able to get a group together. I noticed that Jon Wolverton attended your reunion. His younger brother, Pete, was in my class (but he returned to public school after 8th grade so did not graduate from DeVeaux). I remember a story about Jon. You may recall that the seniors read the lessons in chapel every morning. Jon must have been very nervous one time because he introduced the reading as the “twenty-oneth” chapter (or verse, I don’t remember which). Of course Mr. McLeod relished pointing out his error in front of the entire school during the school assembly later that day!
    Regards,
    Mike Keenan ’66 mpknn@hotmail.com

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  23. Well this is a trip down memory lane. I too went to DeVeaux for just one year in 1959. After completion of the 7th grade it was suggested that this may not be the place for me. I did enjoy my time there with the exception of the "Blue List" which I was chronically on, and the rich tradition of the place. I remember exploring the attic in Patterson Hall and seeing a case with the training rifles from the old military days and many other artifacts related to that time.

    My Brother Kent graduated from DeVeaux in 1961 and had a great group of guys in his class. I'm glad you have keep the sprite of DeVeaux going and really enjoyed your blog.

    Cheers,
    Keith G. Williams

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    1. Keith, Welcome! I found your photo in the 1959 yearbook. You sure looked a lot like your brother Kent. He actually graduated in 1960, one year ahead of me. He wrote the following in my yearbook. "Dave, Thanks for slugging me on the back every morning, it woke me up. I wish you all the luck in the world because you'll need it." You did do some exploring, that's for sure. My classmates regularly raided the kitchen after hours and you explored the attic at Patterson Hall and discovered those old training rifles. Despite my 4 years in the 'institution', I missed out on both adventures! I never heard of the Blue List either... Memories do slowly fade into a blur. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  24. You have a great blog ! I live near the old school.
    I just wish they would remodel it and use it to bring life back into it , maybe a hotel for weddings and banquets. It's in a beautiful area and should be preserved. It's a shame they tore down some of the other buildings. Thank you , Pat

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  25. Dave, I am not sure if you are interested, but my sister and I had the privledge of caring for a fellow that attended the school back in the late 1930s early 1940s . After his graduation he went on to join the marines and fought in WWII in the pacific. he pasted away last month at the age of 94. We were honored to hear his many stories about attending this school.

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    1. It's always good to hear about a DeVeaux alumnus, especially one who defended our country in wartime! Thanks for providing him with personal care in the twilight of his life. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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