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Mother, daughter relive attending same historic black school

By BY KELDY ORTIZ - KORTIZ@VICAD.COM
Feb. 16, 2013 at 6 p.m.
Updated Feb. 16, 2013 at 8:17 p.m.

Daisy Hodge sits next to her piano in her Victoria home. Hodge is a graduate of F.W. Gross High School, a formerly all-black school in Victoria.

History of F.W. Gross School

• 1887-1907 - Frederick W. Gross serves as principal for a Freeman's School on East Convent Street.

• 1902 - New school is built on East Convent Street. Although the school was named the Victoria Colored School, many referred to it as the Gross School.

• 1907-1923 - C.H. McGruder serves as principal.

• 1923-1938 - A.D. Sheffield serves as principal and suggests the school be renamed after Gross.

• 1938 - New school approved due to overcrowding.

• 1966 - The school district integrates.

• 1979 - The F.W. Gross Alumni Association starts annual reunions.

Source: Historical marker dedicated in July 2011

Daisy Hodge and Bertha Hill remember F.W. Gross High School as if they had just attended a few years ago.

The moments they shared there and the friendships they made attending the school were worthwhile, they said.

But they didn't attend school at the same time or in the same decade.

Hodge, 93, graduated from the school in 1936, while Hill, 66, graduated in 1965. The mother and daughter both attended the school when it was for blacks only.

The school is now F.W. Gross Montessori Magnet School.

The area high school integrated in 1966, a year after Hill graduated.

Since the integration, the school was recognized with a historical marker to preserve the campus that Hill, Hodge and others called home.

"That's where I spent my time and enjoyed being with that group," said Hodge. "To spend time there was wonderful. I wanted my children to go there and finish."

Hodge recalled a couple who taught mathematics and language courses. She admits that she wasn't good at either, but her teachers didn't mind working with her. At times, Hodge said, she and a few other classmates visited their teachers' home to discuss classwork and have dinner.

"They didn't have children, so they made us their children," she said.

As Hill was nearing graduation, schools started to integrate.

Hill, a retired nurse, wanted to have the experience of going to an integrated school but wasn't sure that was ideal.

"I didn't know if they were going to have the same opportunities that we had" in school, she said.

At Gross, Hill participated in the school band. For her, it was about being around friends. She spent more time at school than at home because she knew the experience was not going to last because everyone had to graduate.

"I probably didn't do as well as I should have or could have because I was busy having a good time," she said.

From high school, Hill attended a community college in Houston before transferring to Oklahoma City University to major in nursing, she said. She wanted to help others like her mother, who after attending Gross became a substitute teacher.

Roy Buchner, another alumni, graduated with Hill. He said he is glad he attended school at Gross, as he continues to stay in touch with fellow classmates like Hill.

"We're keeping the family going on," Buchner said. "Just to be able to get people together and see how people are doing is great."

Former Gross Alumni Association President Victor Marshall said having parents and their children who attended the school as alumni association members shows a lot about the school's character.

"We want our children to keep this alumni group going," he said. "When we went to school, we had a lot of personal contact with teachers, which we want our students to continue with."

Marshall said the alumni association is planning another reunion for later this summer.

"It will be interesting to see what people have been up to," Hill said. "It's going to be a party."

It's a party that mother and daughter will attend together.

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