September 1948 to September 12, 2011
In the early morning hours of September 12, 2011, our beloved SOSS was burned to the ground. It took a few hours to burn and those who were woken up by fire sirens stood silently across the road, some crying, all remembering their time at that beloved school. SOSS will live on forever.
LONG LIVE OUR MEMORIES
SOHS was opened in 1948 was considered the “Taj Mahal” of schools as it was dubbed by the Vancouver Sun. It was due to the hard work of Frank Venables that a high school was built in Oliver. The school board hired an architect and the school was built in the Streamline Moderne style…only one of its’ kind left in Canada.
And I might add that SOSS attracted some of the most gifted teachers anywhere…..Nick Jones, Ewart Bowering, Gar McKinley, Evelyn Lundy to name a few. There were a lot of doctorates behind several names.
I started Grade Seven in 1958 at SOHS and graduated at SOSS in 1964. The name was changed to Southern Okanagan Secondary School in the fall of 1963. I finished my schooling at SOSS in 1965 after having taken Grade 13…..first year university offered to any student after passing Grade 12.
During my school years, we had the best band, orchestra and choir first under the guidance of the one and only Gar McKinley and later Kurt deBoer and Ted Gergely who took us on a fantastic tour of the Kootenays and winning awards in Victoria….we had the best basketball teams…Hornets and Hornettes.
Our Frank Venables Auditorium was always a full house for our high school concerts and for our Drama Festivals. The Auditorium was also used by many local organizations. I remember seeing the Irish Rovers in that grand old auditorium!
We had the largest Drama Festival with entries from the Kootenay’s; from up the Valley; Vancouver, Victoria, Wenatchee, Spokane, Brewster, Okanogan etc. We had afternoon matinees and evening performances…everyone was billeted with a family in Oliver, Osoyoos and OK Falls. The Festival started on Wednesday afternoon and continued right through to Saturday night……three performances each afternoon and evening and on Saturday, a command performance of the best three with awards night. Full house, folks….for every performance….even the afternoon matinees.
We held two High School reunions with over 1800 people EACH time coming from as far away as Australia to be a part of the festivities. What a great time we had at both. Renewing old acquaintances, chatting it up with the teachers; tripping down memory lane. We had three or four bands playing at different venues, busses taking people from one site to another….so many tears, so much laughter. I remember a whole group of people gathered in the auditorium and stood on the stage while Lloyd Fairweather played the piano and we “sang up every song he knew!” We all then went and sat in the seats and looked up at the stage and just reminisced.
We had the best cafeteria anywhere…10 cent veggie plate; 20 cent meals were meat, potatoes, veg; 30 cent meals were 2 meats, 2 pot and veg; Soup 5 cents; Pie 10 cents; apple brown betty and rice pudding 5 cents; milk 5 cents, bread 2 cents…a varied menu: stew, meat pie, sausages, hamburgers, hot dogs and FABULOUS fish and chips.
I cannot talk about the cafeteria without mentioning our one and only Nick Szmata, his wife Ida and Mrs. Edith Riches. They kept us in good healthy food for our entire school years. It was also their practice to allow students to help serve the meals and get their meals free. I thoroughly enjoyed being a server and talking with everyone but best of all, we could eat ALL we wanted and I usually had two or three desserts and a 30 cent meal, milk, bread, maybe pie..things haven’t changed that much for me either..LOL. There was also a little ice cream stand where creamsicles, fudgies and revels were on sale for a nickel as well as fresh apples. ***Note: our meals when I went to school were the above prices…they went up in later years.
I have a lot of wonderful memories of that grand old school. The ring of laughter in the halls, running feet, crossing the black line ( a no-no!), sitting in the auditorium at lunch listening to someone practice, sitting in the gym watching basketball, volleyball or just plain horsing around. Always wondering if they were ever going to build the swimming pool in the U….they never did! Sitting in the little music room day after day and practicing, practicing, practicing.
We, the past students of SOSS, understand the significance of what SOSS meant to the town of Oliver and to each one of us. It wasn’t just a school… it was home.
You, SOSS, shall never be forgotten…you will live in our memories and we will keep you close in our treasured photographs. You will rise from the ashes in a new world and a new form but the ghost of our beloved SOSS will never leave that hallowed ground.
A new school has been built…a beautiful school and this weekend there will be a gathering of students again. Have fun and remember to stop by the memorial garden at the front of the school and read the plaques of those students who have left us.
We also had a school song I am posting here..written by the one and only Gar McKinley..our music teacher.
by Gar McKinley
Throughout the years, may this our song
Bring memories of happy days of old
Loud be the cheers sung loud and long
That echo true where e’er our flags unfold
For we are the students of the finest school
Of the best school in the land
Where brave deeds together with the golden rule
March always hand in hand
So stand up and cheer for our comrades dear
Our victory flag must fly
One two three Rah Rah Rah
Who are we Rah Rah Rah
We’re the S O High