Rochefort HS History

Opened: 1953
Closed: 1958

Rochefort, located in the province of Charente Maritime, is a quiet, picturesque French town. Built in 1665 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, it was once an ancient naval base. Used by Napoleon as an arsenal, it again served an army – the United States Army. Little did the French port authorities, previous occupants of Direction des Travaux Maritime, know that it would ever be occupied by an American school. The elementary students first initiated the building in April 1953. The doors were closed for the summer months, but when Mr. Kyrios, the high school principal, arrived from Berlin in August, he reopened the portals for the Rochefort American High School. The school colors were red and white and the mascot was the Rocket.

According to the first yearbook, September 8, 1953 brought unfamiliar faces into the building. Students were swarming the halls and shouting greetings to old friends and making new ones as classes got under way. The teenage touch soon appeared in the rooms to give them that familiar look of high school. Dormitories, the mess hall, and Army buses soon felt the unmistakable presence of high school students. Once the doors opened, supplies from Karlsruhe began arriving and came at intervals throughout the year. By mid-term the starting enrollment of 65 had risen to over 100. Students and teachers worked together, not minding the inconveniences and even enjoying them at times, conscious of the fact that they were beginning the history of Rochefort American High School.

A school newspaper, the Rochette, was published bi-monthly. There were 14 seniors. The school had a men’s basketball team and there were cheerleaders. Many students were from areas far from the school and stayed in the 5-day dorms. Dorm students came from Bussac, Captieux, Braconne, St. Nazaire and the Bordeaux area. The Quonset hut dorms were furnished with army cots and military foot lockers. Students took cold, saltwater showers. The students remembered the smokey soot from the coal stoves that provided the heat. Students ate at the mess hall which was close to the dorms.

In 1954 the school opened with 119 students, sixteen of whom were seniors. There were eleven teachers and a principal. Students in the dorms, which were then located in the school complex, had their meals at the snack bar and the NCO club was used for school dances. The school had several clubs including a music club, business club, dramatic club, yearbook and student council. The basketball team played Paris High, Orleans High and Chateauroux. The newspaper was published once a month. In the third year of the school, there were now twenty-two seniors. Soccer and football were added and there was a pep club in addition to the cheerleaders. The number of clubs increased.

The yearbook for 1955-56 referred to the experience of living in France and the memories that were formed. Some of the colorful pictures in their memories were “Napoleon’s Arsenal Arch trough which we pass every morning on our way to school, or the peculiar Transporter Bridge, built by the man of Eifel Tower fame, that appears on the horizon from the library window. Another might be the colorful Saturday mornings in the ‘marche’ where the country people bring in their fruit and vegetables to sell and everyone and their brother seems to be there.”

In the 1956-57 school year, there were 18 seniors, and majorettes were added for women. The school newspaper was now published weekly. The highlight of the year was the senior trip to London. Fundraising activities were held throughout the year to fund this trip.

During the fifth year of the school the school facilities were much improved. The elementary school, which formerly occupied a section of the school buildings was moved, leaving three educational buildings, two dormitories, a recreation hall and a cafeteria for the use of the high school. Each department was considered a new asset, since the cafeteria was constructed in the latter part of the 1956-57 term; the industrial arts and homemaking sections received new locations and materials; and the recreation hall, thanks to the efforts of the Student Council, was redecorated from floor to ceiling.

The school closed June, 1958.

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