Students, administrators and tribal members
■ By Matt McPherson / Columnist
It was a party of epic proportions as Valle Vista Elementary celebrated its 30 year anniversary on May 3. Principal Dr. Christine Ramirez welcomed district administrators, teachers, students, alumni and living reminders of local history and Haven Hendry, student council vice president, led the crowd in the flag salute, followed by the Valle Vista Choir’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Dartmouth Middle School cheerleaders performed an upbeat routine, setting an energized mood for the crowd. Luke Hepler, student council president, spoke of the school’s rich history and acknowledged the many people who have dedicated decades of their lives to make Valle Vista Elementary an institution that will continue to educate thousands of children in the coming years.
Probably the most memorable and moving presentation of the day came from Kathryn Replogle Davidson, who attended the original Valle Vista Elementary school, north of Florida and Fairview avenues, more than 90 years ago. Kathryn reminisced about the tight-knit community and fully-integrated schoolhouse that stood for more than 40 years until the much larger Hemet Elementary and Union High School were constructed downtown.
Davidson explained how Luiseño and Cahuilla tribal members from Soboba, many of them barefoot, would make the trek down from the canyons and hillsides to join their friends and classmates in the quaint schoolhouse. In fact, she is still best friends with her second grade classmate, Margaret (Maggie) Silvas, nine decades later.
“When my father (Ernie Salgado) was 10 years old, he lived in Indian Canyon and rode his little pony to school,” said Rose Salgado. “My father used to tell us that sometimes, if he had a dime, he would stop at Kathryn’s family store, The Replogle Valle Vista Store, on the northwest corner of Fairview and get an ice cream or candy before heading home.”
Davidson reminded the students “to absorb all memories from the teachers, classmates, and experiences that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.” She shed a tear when recalling the fond memories of her childhood in the peaceful agrarian community she still loves today.
“I wouldn’t have missed this celebration for the world,” said Davidson. “This meant so much to me. I can’t thank the staff and administration enough who made this possible.”
Anniversary plaques were awarded to teachers who have taught at the school for two or more decades. Juanita German, 25 years; Debbie Valdez, 26 years; Ann Bruyea, 27 years; Mark Self, 27 years; and Jenny Cole with an impressive 30 years.
“One Song,” featuring soloists Rosie Bradshaw and Blake Anderson was performed to close out the celebration and representatives from each class released red and black balloons (the school’s colors) into the clear blue sky.
“Our 30th anniversary celebration was amazing because, as we researched the history of our Valle Vista area, we discovered that there had been a school here starting in 1893,” said Mary Anderson, Valle Vista Elementary librarian, who also orchestrated the event. “We then felt that we really wanted to honor that time period also. Having Kathryn Davidson, a long time resident of Valle Vista, who actually attended the original school, with us at our celebration truly set the tone for the day.”
Assistant Principal Lina De La Peña enjoyed the celebration, especially Davidson’s participation.
“Valle Vista’s 30th Anniversary celebration had many highlights, but the one that will be etched in my mind forever was watching Mrs. Kathryn Replogle Davidson, a Valle Vista student 90 years ago, take a picture with a fifth-grade Viking, who just happened to be her great grandson,” said De La Peña. “I think that’s quite special and a true testament of what Valle Vista stands for in this community…family.”