From 1955 to 1980, thousands of Hollin Hills elementary school students danced the Virginia Reel, studied poetry, foreign language and math in open classrooms, and ran on the playground a stone’s throw from what most kids called the “Haunted House.”
The building might be gone, but the memories of former students are not. Close to 119 alumni spanning the entire twenty-five year history have joined a Facebook page to share somewhat faded memories and renew old acquaintances.
Take for example, the page’s founder, Cindy Redding. She grew up in Mason Hill and attended Hollin Hills Elementary, Bryant Junior High School and Groveton High School.
“All three of my schools closed,” Redding said, laughing.
All the more reason, she thought after joining the Groveton High School Tigers Facebook Alumni page—she was Class of 1984--, to set up a similar group for Hollin Hills Elementary School Alumni.
For most members the page is a trip down memory lane recounting personal experiences and poignant historical memories like their exact location on the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
Kathy Schultz was in her favorite teacher Miss Brimhall’s second grade class, when she heard the news. The class was walking outside to recess and passed the 5th graders window when someone shouted out Kennedy was shot. Miss Brimhall immediately turned the group around and returned to their classroom. She asked everyone to sit down and put his or her heads on the desk. She started crying.
“I had never seen a teacher cry,” remembers Kathy Schultz.
Hollin Hills Elementary School opened in 1955 with eleven classrooms for seven grades, according to the late Ruth Dell, who wrote a short Hollin Hills school history for Hollin Hills History in Four Decades.
“Fairfax County provided bricks, mortar and basic furniture; ‘frills" were up to the parents!’” wrote Dell, who served on the Fairfax County School Board.
According to Dell’s history, by 1963 Hollin Hills was overpopulated so the entire attendance area of Lower Sherwood Hall Lane on both sides, including New Hollin Hills, was transferred to the newly opened Stratford Landing. Hollin Meadows, the school still serving the area opened in 1965 with 437 students. Due to declining enrollments, Hollin Hills Elementary School was closed in 1980.
Hollin Hill’s School memories pour out of people’s keyboard, reflecting the life and times of the Fort Hunt area back in the day. The posts are witty, reflective and poignant. Memories are vivid, numerous and entertaining.
Did the principal make a huge impression? You bet.
Susan Phillips Repole vividly remembers being “terrified” of the principal, Mr. Snodderly.
“One day he came into the cafeteria and was walking by our table. I ate spinach so he wouldn't think I was a troublemaker, “she recounts. “Avoiding my veggies was about as rebellious as I got in those days.”
Repole remembers a teacher who brought a more permissive dress code to Hollin Hills. Mr. Fox said it was ok, she says, for girls to wear pants to school.
“ Now if only I could've gotten my mother on board with the new dress code!”
There were Hollin Hill’s teachers who influenced members’ professional choices.
Matt Merriam, who has had a long and successful computer-programming career who is now pursuing a graduate education masters at Columbia University, recalls the impact of Mr. Hinton, his 6th grade teacher in 1972-1976.
“He taught me to program in BASIC on paper when it was only two years old,” Meriam recounts.
Kathy Schultz credits Miss Brimhall with influencing her decision to teach elementary school.
What were posters other favorite teacher memories?
“We always thought it was hopelessly romantic that first grade teacher Mrs. McKelvy’s husband was a fighter pilot and she wore bright red lipstick.”
“ Miss Persinger ate candy all the time.”
“Mrs. Shaw wore hushpuppies.”
“Mr. Krug made chatty students write I will not talk 100 times.”
Peter Gordon, who attended Hollin Hills in the late 1950s and early 1960s provides a history lesson.
“…. (It was the) days of duck and cover air raid drills, racial segregation, school prayers and Sputnik….Big b&w televisions rolled in on carts for the Shepard and Glenn space flights.”
What else did Gordon remember? “Apple juice and finger cookies, trailers in the back for added classrooms.”
And who could ever forget, he added, “there was an amazingly hot French teacher who drove a blue T-bird and regaled us with her tales of the Belgian resistance.”
This is the first installment in an occasional series about online communities in the Fort Hunt area.