VAIL, Colorado - Fifty years ago this week, seven boys and girls gathered around the Seibert family's dining room table and school was in session.
Five decades later, more than 400 students, faculty and staff gathered in Vail Mountain School's auditorium Wednesday to sing happy birthday to their school and themselves, and celebrate the school's 50th birthday.
Over five decades, VMS has educated those Vail originals, their children and their children's children.
"Their moms and dads needed a place close to the mountain because they were busy building the ski area," said Peter Abuisi, Vail Mountain School's headmaster for many of its 50 years.
"How lucky we are to live in one of the best small towns in America, and to have an industry that we've come to love," Abuisi said.
For their school's Golden Anniversary lunch, 400 VMS family members sat down to a family-style dinner, golden fried chicken, mashies from Yukon Gold potatoes and golden gravy. The green beans were green, mostly from envy because they really wanted to be gold.
School was a more laid back affair in those early years. Kids attended classes until noon then went skiing. P.E. was powder education.
Abuisi and some others remember when sheep outnumbered people, and some of those people raised iceberg lettuce until they learned that tourists were easier to pick.
The Home Tour started in 1972 as the Kitchen Tour. It was a more innocent and less lawyerly time. Students with drivers licenses drove people around in the school's station wagons.
A few dedicated parents started the annual Eagle Valley Community Rummage Sale and Auction to help pay the headmaster.
Vali Pulis, now Vali Wilcox, was part of that early group. She was the valedictorian of that first VMS graduating class - four people: Pulis, Peggy Augustine, Erik Brofos, and Lael Fray - in 1976.
"We'll just say I was in the top 25 percent of my class," Wilcox joked with the VMS students.
It was Vail Country Day School in those days, and she started as a kindergartner in 1964.
"We grew so much we moved from the dining room to the basement," Wilcox said.
When she and her three classmates graduated in 1976, their four moms planned a pot luck graduation party at Manor Vail. The whole school showed up.
That 1976 class was the school's smallest. Her daughter Chandler graduated in 2009 as part of the largest VMS class.
Luke Gorsuch is the third generation of the Gorsuch family to be part of Vail Mountain School. His grandparents, Dave and Renee Gorsuch rolled into town not long after the lifts started running and relocated their ski shop from Gunnison to Vail.
During this week's celebration, Luke looked out across the student body and asked, "How many of you have parents or grandparents who attended VMS?"
Dozens of hands shot up.
It comes around and it's coming around again.
Eve Nicole Trumpower graduated VMS in 2004 with a class of 14 people. She's now teaching middle school math at VMS.
Vail Mountain School seniors work closely with kindergarten kids as a senior buddy. Among other things they carve pumpkins together.
Fast forward a few years and Trumpower is a middle school math teacher. A grinning eighth-grade girl bounced into her room not so long ago.
"You were my pumpkin carving buddy when I was in kindergarten," the girl said to Trumpower.
The teacher searches her memory banks for less than a second and replies, "Hello Lainey Bailey."
Trumpower filled out one of those Vail Daily forms that graduates do. She said that in 10 years she'd like to be right back at Vail Mountain School teaching math.
For her senior project she cut a CD of seven original songs and played guitar. This week Trumpower played guitar in the faculty band, belting out the Beatles' "Birthday."
"So much has changed, but it's still the same where it counts," Wilcox said. "That sense of community runs all the way to our roots."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
50 years of Vail Mountain School
1962-63: With no school in Vail, parents Jack Tweedy, Betty Seibert, and Barbara Parker form Vail Country Day School with Allen Brown as its first teacher. The first classes were held October 15, 1962, around the dining table of Betty and Peter Seibert. Mid-year, Vail Country Day School moves to The Lodge at Vail after its construction is completed.
1963-64: Vail Country Day School enrollment doubles.
1964-65: Allen Brown named head teacher at Vail Country Day School and is joined by Judy Marshall Nelson who teaches the first kindergarten. Vail pioneer Dick Hauserman together with Vail Country Day School parent Ted Kindel negotiate use of the top floor of the Vail Fire House. Parent volunteers transform the space into two large classrooms, library, teacher's office, and bathroom.
1965-66: Vail Country Day School grows to 26 students and three teachers, with Ginny Crowley as head teacher.
1966-67: The town of Vail is incorporated. Vail Country Day School parent Ted Kindel becomes first mayor of Vail.
1967-68: Vail Country Day School relocates to the new Vail Clinic Building on West Meadow Drive in a single classroom using an "open space" concept.
1968-69: Eagle County School District forms Vail's first public school, absorbing the students and resources of Vail Country Day School in grades K-six. Vail Country Day School grades seven and eight relocate to Vail Associates offices on Wall Street, and then to the Bank of Vail Building in Crossroads.
1970-71: Vail Country Day School moves to the Tivoli Lodge and then Lionshead Center. All six students take home medals from the Vail Standard Ski Race. Over the years, a number of Vail Country Day School students will compete as members of the U.S. Ski Team. During the early years of the school, students were dismissed mid-day to ski.
1971-72: Vail Associates moves Vail Country Day School into the Lionshead Gondola Building conference room.
1972-73: Vail Country Day School holds the first Annual Kitchen Tour as a scholarship fundraiser. It's now the Home Tour. For the first time, the school admits out-of-area students. Most are Ski Club Vail racers living with host families.
1973-74: Vail Country Day School is renamed Vail Mountain School.
1974-75: Vail Mountain School is issued a five-year lease by Vail Associates on the property at Meadow Mountain, now occupied by the Forest Service. Parent volunteers, students, and faculty work together to improve the property. Two modular buildings are added to the campus.
1975-76: Caryle Clark is appointed headmaster. Vali Pulis, Peggy Augustine, Erik Brofos and Lael Fray are the first seniors to graduate from VMS.
1976-77: Peter Abuisi is hired to direct the lower and middle schools as well as teach language arts and social studies.
1978-79: Peter Abuisi becomes headmaster. The school graduates eight seniors, all of whom enter college in the fall. Construction of the Booth Creek facility begins in May on a multi-acre parcel donated to the school by Vail Associates. The project is designed by architect Gordon Pierce and built by developer Bob Lazier, both of whom are then-current Vail Mountain School parents and board members.
1979-80: Despite opening a week late, the new Vail Mountain School building is constructed in record time during a single summer recess. Undeterred by the delay, classes start on schedule using locations in Vail Village as a temporary campus. 107 students attend grades one through 12 at the new campus and 11 seniors graduating in May.
1980-81: Vail Mountain School is granted membership in the Association of Colorado Independent Schools. Exterior restoration of the Homesteader Cabin, which was built in 1906, is completed with the guidance of Edna Baldauf Norgaard, who spent her childhood there. Norgaard is awarded an honorary diploma at graduation.
1982-83: Vail Mountain School celebrates its 20th year.
1984-85: Kindergarten returns to Vail Mountain School with a class of 12.
1987-88: Vail Mountain School celebrates its 25th anniversary. The school's float wins first place Vail's Fourth of July parade.
1989-90: Vail Mountain School Campus Center is built. Enrollment reaches 180 students taught by 21 teachers.
1992-93: Vail Mountain School celebrates its 30th anniversary.
1996-97: Vail Mountain School launches SummerQuest, a program for middle school students in Eagle County public schools who have been identified as talented and in need of additional academic support.
1997-98: Vail Mountain School celebrates its 35th anniversary. Successful fundraising provides over $200,000 in need-based tuition assistance. Land in Sweetwater is purchased for student retreats.
2001-02: Vail Mountain School enrollment grows to 260 students with 40 faculty members.
2002-03: The $26 million "!magine" Capital Campaign is launched by Vail Mountain School to fund a completely new campus at the existing location. Vail Resorts donates the land east of Katsos Ranch Road for faculty housing. Ground is broken on the new facility in April 2003.
2003-04: The first phase of construction at Vail Mountain School is completed.
2004-05: Phase two of construction at Vail Mountain School is completed for school opening. Enrollment expands to 315 students. 26 seniors graduate in May.
2005-06: The new Vail Mountain School campus is dedicated on September 23, 2005.
2007-08: Vail Mountain School celebrates its 45th anniversary.
2009-10: Vail Mountain School awards more than $1 million in need-based tuition assistance to 26 percent of its students.
2012-13 The Town of Vail, Vail Mountain and Vail Mountain School celebrate their 50th anniversaries.