Grymes Memorial School began as a dream in the minds of a few men and women of Orange, Virginia, and became a reality for hundreds of area families.
As a way to cope with the tragic loss of her two children, Mrs. Emily Leftwich Grymes envisioned a new school in the county, one that emphasized strong academics and would provide individual attention to its students.
Mrs. Grymes’ two children died when they were young adults. Breck, a rear gunner during World War II, was killed on Christmas Eve when his plane was shot down. Betty died six months later of a childhood illness. In the loneliness resulting from the loss of her children, Mrs. Grymes suggested to her friends that they bring their children to play in the backyard of her home on Main Street while they shopped. There was a two-story building called the “Old Kitchen” where Mrs. Grymes read stories and poems to them while they colored pictures. What began as supervised play developed into play along with some reading instruction. Soon one of the parents suggested Mrs. Grymes start a school, which she did. The school was named Grymes Memorial School to honor the memory of her two children.
As enrollment grew, classes were held in Mrs. Grymes home and across the street in the upstairs of the firehouse. Mrs. Grymes hired teachers for pre-school, kindergarten, first, and second grades. In February of 1955, when there were more students than space, Mr. and Mrs. Virginius Shackelford, Jr. hosted a meeting of friends and parents to discuss the future of Grymes School. Right then and there they formed a Board of Trustees. Mr. and Mrs. Woodbury S. Ober offered a seed grant of 32 acres on Spicers Mill Road. The offer came with the challenge to raise 60,000 dollars in six months. If this wasn’t accomplished, the land and money would have to be returned. The goal was met and exceeded by 25,000 dollars! In May of 1955 the school was officially incorporated and that September ground was broken for the new school building.
In the meantime seventy students from pre-kindergarten to seventh grade had classes in the second floor of the Main Street Fire Department. Construction of the brand new school building moved along as scheduled and on May 27, 1956 the dedication ceremony took place. That fall, Mrs. Rose Hastings began her ten-year term as Headmistress and the next year, an eighth grade was added. Mrs. Grymes co-ran the school and also taught kindergarten. The first eighth grade class of three graduated in June of 1958.
Grymes was what might be described as a “one-building-school-house” until 1966. As Mrs. Hastings was retiring, a capital campaign raised 175,000 dollars to construct a separate building which housed a gym, new pre-school room, and kindergarten. A headmaster’s house was also built at this time. The buildings remained separate until 1985 when new classrooms and an art room linked the two. The last major renovation was a new science lab in 1990. The first physical building on this property has been added on to, renovated, and rooms have been moved around, but the basic principles of an academically challenging program rich in traditions have never changed.