Just Because: Ville Platte High is 100 years old

By: Carissa Hebert

Did you know Ville Platte High School (VPHS) turned 100 this year. I didn’t know this, and I don’t think many other people do either. It was our publisher, David Ortego, who was rearranging books and discovered a yearbook from 1958 noting the 50th anniversary of the school.

The yearbook’s cover is gold and features a purple bulldog and purple banner with the words, “1908 Reflector 1958, Golden Anniversary Edition.”

Now I’m not a native of Ville Platte, but over the years I have learned many things about this small community. I didn’t know VPHS’ first building was a two-story building before the present structure was built. Just inside the cover of the yearbook, there’s a photo of the wooden structure and a photo of what is now the present structure.

Another page notes “Fifty years of progress,” which states, “From the former Evangeline Academy (Note: Not the Evangeline Academy established in Vidrine in the late 1960s.) to the present Ville Platte High School is recorded a steady growth of educational facilities and accomplishments over a period of half a century. The progress has not always been a smooth uphill road. There have been obstacles to conquer, the worst being the depression of the 30s when one school session was shortened to seven-and-a-half months.” It goes on to record the first year, 1908-1909, there were 12 faculty members, including the first principal, E. E. Ortego (1893-1912) who later served as superintendent (1912-1921). According to the book’s history, the first graduating class in 1909 had five people receiving diplomas.

“From the one course at that time and the one school-house, which took care of about 200 pupils, from grades one through 11, and a high-school enrollment of 20 to 30; we, now have a faculty of 59 teachers, an enrollment of 481 in the high school department and 1091 in the elementary grades, and a high school plant which is second to very few in the state,” the article stated.

There’s a list of the first superintendents and principals. Superintendents included E.E. Ortego, Y.L. Fontenot (1921-1925), who also served as principal from 1912-1919; F.V. Launey (1925-1955) and Leroy Soileau, who began his service to the school district in 1955 and was still in that capacity in 1958. Besides E.E. Ortego and Y.L. Fontenot, other principals included L.P. Terrebonne (1923-1926), Victor L. Dupuis (1919-1922), P.E. Wilson (1922-1923) and J.D. Lafleur, who was the present principal and had been in that position since 1926.

Now, I don’t remember the faculty, but I do recognize a few names I’ve heard since I came to work at The Gazette. Sidney Ortego taught math and history. Lionel Ardoin taught agriculture, and E.D. Thomas taught agriculture and biology. Larry Vidrine taught English and speech. Some other names listed included Mary Lynn Pucheau, librarian; Mrs. Virginia West, English and French; Mrs. Annie L. DeRouen, vocal music; Jules Fontenot, seventh grade; Earl John Soileau, physical education and biology; and Yves Soileau and Clarence Soileau, both served as assistant principals. Yves Soileau taught history, and Clarence Soileau taught geometry.

There’s one section of the yearbook which features old photos and names of former graduates. The earliest class recognized with a photo is the Class of 1908. The class of 1911 was identified with the names of James Bailey, Cot Derouen, Aloysius Launey and Olita Reed. There are photos of the 1932 football team and the first rhythm band.

There’s also a dedication to two educators, Mrs. Iris L. Israel and Miss Alicia Lafleur, who were retiring after the close of the 1958 school year. The dedication states, “As students and teachers, they have been connected with Ville Platte High School for half a century. Throughout these years, they have educated the youth of the community.” There’s even a photo of then mayor Leroy Veillon, who proclaimed Friday, May 17, 1957, as Miss Iris and Miss Alicia Day.

Kent Landreneau served his class as Student Council president, and Eddie Soileau served as Student Body president. Long ago, VPHS’s PTA sponsored a Court of Eighth Grade Mardi Gras Ball. In this particular school year, Burke Veillon and Barbara Martin were king and queen, respectively. The FHA girls had a mother-daughter tea.

The track team was parish champions. Members included Burvick Foret, Jose Lasseigne, Ronald Saucier, George Baquet, Donald Veillon, Earl Soileau, Challon Guillory, Nason Deville, Kent Landreneau, Claude Veillon, Jimmy Prudhomme, Melvin Horn, Terry Lee Fontenot and Donald Veillon.

Now it wasn’t called Mr. and Miss VPHS. Instead it was referred to as campus leaders. They were Nelwyn Soileau and Eddie Soileau. Most Handsome Boy was Kent Landreneau and Prettiest Girl was Annette Soileau. Jane Roberie was Sweetheart of VPHS, and Most Courteous were Waldine Manuel and Richard Tate. Most Popular were Annette Soileau and Kent Landreneau; Wittiest were Marie Ann Fontenot and Robert Lee Manuel. Best Athlete were Jane Roberie and Ray Gibson. Rounding out the list were class favorites Jane Roberie and John A. Fuselier, seniors; June Hewitt and Joe Lasseigne, juniors; Judy Fuselier and Benny Fontenot, sophomores; and Mike Gibson and Betty Fontenot, freshmen.

Janella Fontenot was Homecoming Queen. Her court consisted of Maids Jane Roberie, Peggy Lafleur, Nelwyn Soileau, Ina Claire Rougeau, Martha Derouen and Marie Ann Fontenot.

Royalty for the Harvest Ball included Maids and Dukes Gerald Attales and Jane Roberie, Carol Buller and Mary Bordelon, Jerry Clyde Foret and Ina Claire Rougeau and June Hewitt and Charles Manuel. Nelwyn Soileau and Harold Ortego were FFA Queen and Romero, respectively. Crown bearers were Ted Ardoin and Lydia Launey.

And the rest, I guess, is history. I thought it was quite interesting how the staff remembered the first 50 years of the school’s history. The yearbook staff consisted of Theresa Vidrine, editor; Martha Derouen, assistant editor; Waldine Manuel, business manager; Sandra Fontenot, assistant business manager; Marie Ann Fontenot, circulation manager; Ruth Horn, Margaret Aguillard and Jimmie Carol Fontenot, typists; and Eddy Soileau, Maynard Soileau and Jules Demoruelle, photographers. Their ending statement said, “The typewriters are cooling off, the aspirin box is empty, the camera supplies are gone, the swollen feet are being soaked, the bank balance is down to 12-cents but the final copy is on its way. Oh, for a good nights sleep. In spite of all these tribulations we have enjoyed the work and are proud of our accomplishments. We wish to thank everyone who has helped us to publish the 1958 Reflector.”

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