Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Bishop Dagwell Hall by Elanie F.


Having done the Oral History Project twice has taught me a lot of interesting facts about the OES history. It is well-known that OES was called a girl school Saint Helen’s Hall in downtown, but much fewer people were as familiar with Bishop Dagwell Hall as St. Helen’s Hall. Luckily, many alums have chosen Homecoming in the past week as an opportunity to revisit OES campus and talk about their experience with Bishop Dagwell Hall.


Two alums from the class of 67’, the first class graduated from BDH, were interviewed about their life at BDH. Even though it has been about 45 years since they graduated, there are two things that they remembered deeply: coats and ties, as well as the separation between boys and girls.

Even though BDH was established at what is now the current OES campus in 1964, it was a relatively independent school from Saint Helen’s Hall. First of all, they accepted only boys, as SHH had all girls. In addition, BDH tried to enforce an old British style education at that time. Everyone at school was required to wear coats and ties for all of the events. Day students were freed after school, but the dorm students had to change back to coats and ties from their sports uniform after practice so that they could be permitted to get dinner. Unfortunately, for example, the class of 67’ of BDH had 13 boys in total, only 2 of whom did not live in the dorms, which on the other hand meant that over 80% of the class were dorm students and forced to be in formal clothing all day long. For a group of 17, 18-year-olds to be restricted into suites everyday was too cruel for them. A lot of the boys chose to practice hard and get accepted into a Varsity sport so that they could wear their team jacket instead of a coat sometimes.

What else could a group of boys not tolerate? Seeing girls 20 feet away from them but not being permitted to interact with them! Even the dorms of the two schools were not far away: the Scott House as the boys’ dorm and the current two dorm buildings as the girls’ dorm. Since BDH was mostly separate from SHH, even the classrooms of the two school were at separate ends of the Great Hall. The only class that was co-ed was Spanish and obviously there were were always boys chosing to take it just to interact with the SHH students. to take The only legitimate time for the boys from BDH to talk with the girls in SHH was an hour right after dinner, but––supervised. Everyone was watched when they were talking with people who had the opposite gender! Certainly there were boys who snuck out of the dorms to meet with their girl friends at midnight, but they would soon get expelled from the school if they were caught. Even the graduation was separate. The poor boys had theirs on the grass behind the cafeteria, all 13 of them, while SHH held theirs in the Cathedral downtown.

“You really should feel lucky now,” one of the alum said to me during our conversation. Surely I do. Of course there was nothing wrong with BDH, other than the daily stress from dress codes, and being separate from girls that were just 20 feet from them, were slight inconveniences. Surely everyone should be glad that OES is such an integrated community now with everyone interacting with each other freely, and nobody would have any complaints as they graduate and go on their way.

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