OAK HILL — A big part of the Labor Day weekend here is comprised of activities centering around the Oak Hill High School/Collins High School Alumni Association.

As a bonus, Red Devil graduates across a broad spectrum of years had a new location to serve as a gathering place this year.

As Oak Leaf Festival attendees listened to music, watched the parade or consumed some of the tasty food available from various vendors over the weekend, many with Red Devil blood in their veins wandered into the new alumni house across from Oak Hill City Hall. Once inside, they were able to make new memories with old friends and classmates and revisit a slice of their past by viewing photographs and various school memorabilia that has been donated and placed in the new alumni house. The house also features other amenities, including a media room that boasts period music and game films.

Calvin Kidd, a member of the alumni association's board of directors, approached local business owner Danny Tilson in recent weeks to pursue the possibility of the alumni group renting space.

"This just happened in the last six weeks," Kidd said. "This was a big, open room" which "hadn't been used for months."

Instead of offering up space for a rental price, Tilson told Kidd and the association he would make a 3,000-square-foot space on the back side of the Comac building available rent-free.

"Oak Hill has been good to the Comac family and the Tilson family," Danny Tilson said last Wednesday. "We wanted to try to give back."

"I believe in tradition," said Tilson, whose family still operates four businesses in Fayette County. "Fayette County has been wonderful to myself and my family.

"A lot of people have good memories of those schools."

Kidd and association president Pam Hall Smith both expressed their appreciation to the Tilson family for their gesture.

At the alumni association dinner in Beckley late last month, a famed photograph of coal mining pioneer Justus Collins was donated to the association by an individual. The plaque on the photo indicated it had originally been presented by the home economics club of 1968-69. It is now displayed in the alumni house.

According to a 1962 edition of The Log, a long-running Oak Hill High/Collins High publication, the estate of Justus Collins (1857-1934) donated 20 acres in 1948 to house Collins High School. Students moved in to the new building on Aug. 29, 1950, and the school was officially dedicated on May 16, 1951. It remained as Collins High School until the mid-1970s, when the current Oak Hill High School was constructed.

Kidd and Hall said the alumni house, which has a conference room and is handicap-accessible, will be open on special occasions such as it was during the Labor Day weekend. Once more complete details are in place, the plan calls for general weekend hours to be offered, as well.

Future plans include displaying memorabilia from other schools which have merged into Oak Hill High.

Alumni, businesses or other interested individuals who wish to make donations to the alumni association to help pay for utilities at the new alumni house, or for other endeavors such as scholarships, can send them to: OHHS/CHS Alumni Association, PO Box 462, Oak Hill, WV 25901.

Also, those wishing to donate memorabilia can contact any member of the board of directors.

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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