The ‘New’ New Bedford High School Turns 50 Years Old
New Bedford in 1972. Man, what a year.
So much happened in 1972 that it's hard to remember it all. Richard Nixon was elected to a second term in 1972 and then traveled to China. I think Big Bird went with him, no? And then there was Watergate.
Terrorism became a thing in 1972. The Munich Olympics were terrorized by Arab gunmen who killed 11 Israeli athletes. Britain began its bloody occupation of Northern Ireland. The last American ground forces were withdrawn from Vietnam. The Space Shuttle program was announced. Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky to become the World Chess Champion. The Equal Rights Amendment was ratified affirming the equality of the sexes. Whew!
If you lived along the SouthCoast, you probably listened to the American Top 40 Countdown with Casey Kasem on AM radio and signed off with Big Ange on your transistor radio before bed. Construction of what was then called the North Dartmouth Mall was underway leading to what is now the Faunce Corner Road nightmare.
Chances are you spent Friday or Saturday nights at the Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Westport, or Wareham drive-in theaters or roller skating or bowling at Lincoln Park. A family night out in Fall River might have included dinner at the China Royal. A Sunday at the beach probably included Mary's Pond in Rochester.
There was no internet, cell phones, cable TV, Walmart, or McDonald's on the SouthCoast in 1972. In fact, the SouthCoast wasn't even called the SouthCoast then. It was Southeastern Massachusetts.
In New Bedford, you might have watched as "urban renewal" and the construction of Route 18 changed the face of the downtown and the waterfront forever. Stores closed, beautiful palatial theaters were destroyed and a mud pit became the city's bus terminal. John Markey was first elected Mayor of New Bedford in 1972.
Perhaps you played tennis at Buttonwood Park, ice skated by the warming house at Brooklawn Park, and cruised East and West Beach near the Quonset Huts at Fort Rodman. No doubt you rode your Schwinn banana seat bike from sunup to sundown and came home only when the street lights went on.
I was 14 years old in 1972. My older brother was 16. That meant we were among the first students to attend the "new" New Bedford High School which opened on Hathaway Road in September of 1972 where a toxic waste dump once stood. From 1909 to 1972, the "old" New Bedford High School operated on County Street where the New Bedford School Administration Building now stands. Before that, it was located on Summer Street.
In 1972, New Bedford operated three junior high schools: Normandin, which I attended, Keith, and Roosevelt. The junior high schools included grades 7, 8, and 9. Students in grades 10, 11, and 12 went to high school. So it was that in the Fall of 1973 I graduated from Normandin to begin my reign of terror at the "new" New Bedford High School.
I learned about green, blue, tan, and gold houses, the core, the shop area, the little theater, resource centers, and the high diving board above the pool. I was brought to "attention" by Mr. Robinson and kept in line by Mr. Clanan. I learned what it was like to be a Whaler.
Fifty years have come and gone since the "new" New Bedford High School first opened its doors. Unfortunately, there are no plans to mark the occasion, according to Arthur Motta, Community and Public Affairs Manager for the New Bedford Public School System.
Like me, the "new" New Bedford High School is a little worn around the edges, but all and all it has held up pretty well through the many years. Here's hoping for another 50 years, old friend.