My suggested subject was Brae Burn Country Club, the venue for our 50th Reunion. I have never been there, other than tobogganing many times on the back hill (Waban side), but do know that it is a first class venue and previous NHS Reunions that have been held there have received great reviews from the attendees. Because I have lived in Newton for 68 years, and directly across the street from the high school for 37 years, I do know a lot about the 3 totally different schools that have been built there.
Our school was essentially a small college campus, but obviously wearing down. In 1973 a new school was built along Lowell avenue- basically in the area of the oldbaseball fields that we knew. In short, it was a disaster. Designed by architects said to specialize in prisons, it looked and felt like one. Few windows, corridors and stairs that led to nowhere and very dark. The very expensive swimming pool was built approximately 9” short of competition distance, and therefore unusable for meets. They kept the same 6 “Houses’ system, but they were all in an open series of intermingled corridors and quickly irrelevant. Within 15 years discussions began to tear it down and start fresh. But it was a slow process.
When the 1973 building was completed, they set about tearing down our high school campus. In a move of sheer 70’s genius, they decided, rather than haul the debris away, they would simply bury much ofthe school remnants where they lay, using it as fill, and cover it over to create sports fields, basically covering all of Walnut Street, Building 3 and Building 1. As part of this process Elm Road, which had run straight through the school grounds, was redirected in, a circle fashion, to run over and through the site of our Building 1 and the “Shed”.
In 2009 construction began on the current school, which is spectacular, albeit expensive - close to $200,000,000. It is built across the center of the property, basically from the old football field, through Building 3, to the site of Building 1. In early 2007 I was running my dog on the front fields and ran into a soil surveyor testing the soils. Turns out he was searching for “underground tunnels” which he thought were mysterious and odd, but had to be located. I walked him to theapproximate locations. He informed me that the tunnels had been simply left, as is, when the buildings were destroyed in ’73 and were now filled with water. The tunnels, and all the old debris from our school, needed to finally be removed. The problem was that all the pipes running the length ofthe tunnels (which many/most of us wrote our names/initials on & in etc) were insulated with asbestos and likely other contaminants, as were Buildings 1,2 & 3. Think of that the next time you look through the yearbook and see photos of the white coated pipes in the tunnels & buildings. Full remediation was needed. Shortly thereafter, for approximately one year, hazardous waste trucks with workers in full hazmat gear worked the old building sites and hauled away the remains of our school (and the asbestos). The Football stadium was removed also.
In essence, our beautiful campus became a toxic fillfor over 30 years, but now is awonderfully functioning school that is in use 7 days a week by multiple public and private groups. For full financial details you can speak with Newton Alderman, and ’66 classmate Dickie Blazer, who will be at the Reunion. On Saturday morning September 24, among other planned activities, we will be given a tour of the current school by members of the senior class. It should last a bit over an hour. We will then walkaroundgrounds to the various building areas, and finally to Newtonville, for a beverage of choice and edibles. Further information will be available on the website and updated as we get closer to the Reunion. We hope as many classmates as possible attend what should be a great Reunion weekend.
Ted Kelly NHS ‘66