Message from John Reilly, VFE's First Principal
In researching the exact date that Valley Forge Elementary School opened John Reilly, Valley Forge's first principal was contacted. John proved the date and shared his recollections of the opening of the school. With his permission, John Reilly's recollections appear below.
Valley Forge opened for students on February 10, 1958. The students were bussed in from the Paoli and Strafford schools. We had one week of school, and then a major snowstorm that closed all of the schools in the district for a week. The snow drifted in front of the school, up to the rain gutters. Jim Samworth, the custodian, lived at the school for a week as he couldn't get out!!! I thought it was a good schedule, you work a week and get a week off. However, the Superintendent, Dr. Stratton, didn't agree.
The plans were to open Valley Forge Elementary in September 1959. However the Paoli and Strafford schools were so overcrowded there was intense pressure to begin using the Valley Forge Elementary school building which was about 95% complete. There were 8 classroom teachers which included me as a Teacher/Principal (that's an experience that all administrators should undergo).
I was appointed full-time Principal in May of 1958 and in September of 1958, the school opened with classrooms 1-15 in use. During the 58-59 School Year the classroom wing16-23 was under construction as well as the Gym. It was a fascinating experience to try to teach with heavy and noisy construction. But we survived. I served from 1958 -1966 as Principal and then moved to the Director of Personnel position until 1979. It was a very interesting time of enormous growth. Brookmead Farms, Glenhardie and, of course, Chesterbrook were cornfields. Walker Road was a narrow two-lane road, poorly maintained.
I have some slides of the presentation by the American Legion of an American Flag. (will try to find them) We had a flag that had flown over the US Capitol.
The school received a Freedom's Foundation award in the early 1960's. I received a classroom teacher medal from them, too.
I have fond memories of my years at VFE and I'll look through my slides, etc., to see what I can find. Do you have a time schedule for the celebration? If there is anything else you can think of, just give me a call.
There used to be an 8mm film in the storeroom off of the office that showed the kids coming in on the first day. It rained very heavily that day and the kids came in with all of their books, etc. I think we used the film in 1983 when we had the 25th celebration. Hopefully you can find it.
I can't believe it is going to be 50 years!!! 'm not old enough to have been there 50 years ago. It must have been some imposter (yeah, right!!!).