The Vernon Secondary School Class of 2020 revived an old tradition Wednesday, June 17, becoming the school’s first graduating class since 1981 to paint Suicide Hill at the east end of 30th Avenue. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

Vernon Secondary grads revive long-faded tradition

Class of 2020 becomes first grads since 1981 to paint Suicide Hill

You get the feeling if Justin Morgan could have grabbed one of the provided paints cans, he would have left his mark on Suicide Hill, at the east end of 30th Avenue, along with the Vernon Secondary School Class of 2020.

The 171 graduates became the first class since the 500-plus Class of 1981 to tag Suicide Hill Wednesday, June 17, after receiving permission from the City of Vernon. Vernon Secondary was the only Grade 11 and 12 school 39 years ago.

Morgan, a 26-year teacher at VSS, grew up on the hill right beside the road at 3000-23rd Street. However, he attended Fulton Secondary, graduating in 1987, so he never got to paint the hill.

“There were three lanes going up the hill and one down, but I missed out on this,” said Morgan, watching a group of 15-20 students tag the hill.

The event was done with social distancing rules in place that saw the grad class broken up into groups.

“I didn’t get to do this,” Morgan said. “I could have done it any night, but I never did and I lived right there.

“We put our chairs out and watched the grads. The Vernon Daily News was there with a boom and they’d let us go up in the boom to tree levels, look down at the grads, and take pictures. I have Polaroids in my class from 1981.”

Soon-to-be graduate Gabriella Boyd was in the group that got to the hill after 10 a.m. She found a spot in the middle of the hill and signed her name in blue paint, provided by the graduating parents.

“This is cool, very special, something we’ve been looking forward to,” said Boyd. “We’ve had a lot of stuff cancelled so to be able to come out here this morning is great.”

“They love it, they’re super excited,” added Morgan. “This is the thing they were looking forward to. The convocation is different, broken up into half-hour chunks. The courthouse photo will be the same and the groups will be Photoshopped together. This was the only thing where they’d still be in small groups but get to hang out and do something fun, the first group since 1981.”

The traditional VSS graduating courthouse picture will go Thursday afternoon, June 18, done in groups, and there may be traffic delays.

The city will keep Suicide Hill – which is now just one-way heading up the hill east on 30th – closed to traffic for two-and-a-half months as a safety precaution.

A live video from the tagging posted to The Morning Star’s Facebook page struck a chord with many residents who were thrilled to see the tradition revived.

“This is so very awesome,” wrote Donna Cornell (née Knobel), a member of the Class of 1981. “This should never go away. It’s a wonderful tradition.”

Graduation 2020

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Vernon Secondary School teacher Justin Morgan stands in front of the home he grew up in, off Vernon’s Suicide Hill, Wednesday, June 17. Morgan helped oversee the VSS Class of 2020 paint Suicide Hill, something Morgan – a 1987 graduate of crosstown Fulton Secondary – never got to do. The longtime VSS grad tradition of painting the hill was discontinue after 1981. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

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