Lion tree

There is a new “Lion Tree” in the Vernon High School’s new media center but its roots run deep into the past – back to the very first class to start their freshman year in the current Vernon High School building in fact. That’s because the tree, an artificial Christmas tree, and all of its decorations were purchased from donations made by the Class of 1971.

“The Class of 1971 donates $25 in memory of every classmate that passes away, but we had never used any of the money for anything,” said Gayla DeHoyos, VHS Librarian. “When we started talking about putting a Christmas tree up this year, we had the idea to make it a ‘Lion Tree’ and to use some of the money the Class of 1971 had donated.”

Library aides and members of the VHS Class of 2024 Cirstin Ivy and Jaylie Freeman decorated the tree, which has a variety of stuffed and ceramic lions on it, as well as maroon and white Christmas balls.

“The tree looks wonderful,” exclaimed Ann (Word) Wilson, a member of the VHS Class of 1971, who stopped by the high school to see the tree along with classmates, Rhonda (Garrison) Klappenbach and Barbara (Brumley) Dunn.

The Class of 1971 is somewhat historic for Vernon High School. Not only is it the first class to have its members attend the current high school building from the first day of school of their freshman year through to the last day of school of their senior year, it is also the largest graduating class in VHS history.

“We’re kind of proud of both of those things,” Mrs. Wilson said. “We had 193 in our graduating class, and unfortunately 44 of our classmates are no longer here with us.”

The high school building was built in 1967, but wasn’t ready when the 1967-68 school year began. High school students started the school year in the old high school building, which was located where Vernon Middle School is now, and started attending the new high school when they returned from Christmas break.