A Eulogy for Old BHS
May 27, 2021
There will be no funeral held for 52 Institute Road–but a eulogy is still required. Sitting under the fluorescent lights of Macy’s, I found my memories from the old buildings slipping away. So the BHS Register staff went on a field trip to OGBHS.
Walking through the desolate hallways of old BHS for the last time I couldn’t quite catch my breath. We walked up to C building, dandelions sneaking through the grass, unphased by the PCB-infested soil. As the door opened, a nostalgic stale scent wafted out. Out-of-date textbooks and discarded chairs lined the dimly lit hallways like melancholic remnants of a once jovial space.
I was not expecting such an intense reaction from a building that once felt so casual and commonplace. There was such significance in walking through the rooms where I spent my days, saw my friends, and became myself. After more than a year away, the building brought me into the mind of my 16-year-old self.
I walked the same route I did when I would raise my hand to “go to the bathroom” –an excuse for my hyperactive mind to take a much-needed break from class. On these little adventures, I would walk aimlessly through A, B, D, E, and C buildings, making the full loop stopping along the way to chat with friends. Together, we’d admire the various smells wafting through the air (stir fry day, books, B.O.), and laugh at the samples of high school drama we overheard. When we would reach the tan, moist-looking walls of D building we would drink from the sketchy water fountain.
I will miss those halls–toxic and air, concrete, soil, and all. I will miss the student lot full of potholes and 16-year-old drivers parking right in between two parking spots. I will miss running in a pack of out-of-breath students up the hill at 8:05, all of us desperate to make it to our E-building classes.
Oh, and of course there is nothing that we will miss more than doors! Oh, what a wonder it is to be able to shut out the world while learning, back when there was a simple solution to a disruptive adolescent yelling in the hallway. Walking down the bottom floor of C-building the Register writers joked about similarities between the boys’ bathroom and our new home at Macy’s.
Even beyond the walls of old BHS, I find my mind coming back at the most peculiar times–rainstorms bring the nostalgic drip of the C-building bucket to my mind. I picture the way the bucket was always slightly out of alignment and how the water would soak through, creating a wet, musty puddle in the dirt-blue carpet. Now when I stand in lines at Trader Joe’s or TJ Maxx, I am reminded of the long, long, stir-fly line. Taking up your entire lunch period to stand in line was worth it just for the short little conversation you got with the fabulous lunch ladies.
It is easy to make fun of our tragic little building but it was a really cool place to go to high school. The different buildings, the ramps, the leaks, the cold, the hot, the smells were iconic in the way that they bound us all together.
There is a memory in every corner of BHS. The feeling of being there again was eerie; I wanted to reach out and hold the energy, to tuck it away as a polaroid of what my life has been. Down one hallway echoes the laughter and joy of the friendships and connections. Down the next is the sorrow and stress of the struggle for higher achievement and belonging. I don’t think many of us will get the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to BHS–to walk through the school knowing we will never return. Our abandoned building innocently stands, unaware of how much has changed outside its sexagenarian bricks–not knowing how much will never be the same.
So goodbye 52 Institute road; thank you for the friendships and connections, thank you for the struggles and the sorrows. The thousands of journeys that you have housed over the past 56 years will continue on, thriving beyond your walls.