by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
That’s how many years the Grain Valley Alumni Association has been celebrating. The Class of 1909 had four members, Curtis Houston, Ora Morrison, Madge Butler and Lillie Ashcroft. They were the first to graduate from Grain Valley’s two-year high school and the first to celebrate their alumni status. The story I’ve been told is those first graduates provided “punch and cookies” for the Class of 1910 as a way to welcome them to alumni status; and thus the tradition began. For a few years it became a custom for the previous graduates to provide refreshments after graduation for the new alumni.
At some point in those early years, the refreshment became a dinner and reunion for the graduates to come together. With only four or five exceptions, the dinner has continued. Once during WWI and for a couple of years (probably 1944 and 1945) during WWII the dinners were cancelled. And then we had a pandemic!
Sometime during the 1930’s a dance was added to the celebration. I remember my parents attending Alumni Banquets when I was young. It was always the one time each year I can recall my father buying my mother a corsage. I remember one year the corsage was a beautiful white orchid with a blue ribbon. Of course, Mom along with several others, wore their corsage to church the following Sunday morning.
During the 1980s the dances were discontinued. The dance bands of the 30s, 40s, and 50s had become DJs with records and tapes. I suspect the alumni attending the banquets weren’t overly fond of the “rock and roll” music they provided.
In 2020 the pandemic halted the annual event for a couple of years. But the annual Grain Valley High School Alumni Banquet lives on. I have always been told that Grain Valley has the oldest (nearly) continuous alumni association in the State of Missouri. I don’t know how this can be proven, but I suspect that is true!
While the meal has been catered by Nadler’s from Wellington for many years, that wasn’t always the case. For many years the alumni officers planned and cooked the meal, soliciting additional cooking help from other members. When the school got a cafeteria in 1954, the cafeteria ladies were hired to cook the meal.
This year the event will return to the Grain Valley High School Commons on April 29th. As has been the tradition, the 50-year alumni, the Class of 1973, is in charge of planning the program. They will be recognized along with the 40-year, 60-year, and the oldest alumnus present. For the last several years the Alumni Association has awarded scholarships to graduating seniors. Three members from the Class of 2023 will receive $500 scholarships. One of the criteria for winning is they must be the son or daughter (grandson or granddaughter) of a GVHS graduate.
The Historical Society is fortunate to have a nice collection of memorabilia from the Grain Valley schools which includes photos, yearbooks, school newspapers including The Broadcaster and The Eagles’ Cry, prom favors, and old textbooks, to name a few.