HB: A History


Martin Bradshaw, Kai Holmes and Josh Walker

There has been a lot of talk lately about Hollis-Brookline’s ability to house students– or rather, its lack thereof. A great deal of work and worry has gone into finding a way to deal with this issue, and it has proven to be quite the challenge.

The current issue at hand, however, might make it easy to forget that the school wasn’t always this way. In fact, HB has undergone so many changes over the last several decades that taking a look into the past of the educational systems of Hollis and Brookline would be like looking at schools from a totally different town.

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Hollis-Brookline’s Yearbook–now48 years old. Photo Credit: Martin Bradshaw

Times have certainly changed for the HB community. Some of the best evidence of this can be found in yearbooks of the past. If somebody were to consult the yearbook of 1967, they would find a beaten-up, dusty, old book whose binding have been worn away to the point that strips of tape have now become bandages, holding the ancient tome together after more than 40 years.

Between its battered covers, there are black-and-white photos, and clothes and hairstyles that have long since become outdated. Within these ancient records of students past one also finds other indicators of the evolution of the high school student through the decades: the senior superlatives.

The 1967 edition of Hollis Brookline’s yearbook features titles from ‘Class Cut-Up’ to ‘Sharpest Dresser’. Even the wording of these awards begins to paint a mental picture of the school all those years ago.

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Superlatives from Hollis-Brookline High School, 1967. Photo Credit: Martin Bradshaw

The 1971 edition features similar awards to the 1967 yearbook, as well as some different ones like ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ and ’Class Hypochondriac’.

The 1991 yearbook had some pretty funky featured superlatives, like ‘Playmates of the Future’ and ‘Bozo Button Awards’.

Today we boast titles like ‘Biggest Procrastinator’ and ‘Sickest Ride’.

But when looking through these yearbooks,there are a few things that have remained the same since the beginning years of HB. For starters, there is the school newspaper. Even back in 1967, the papers was called the Cavalier Chronicle.

More importantly, however, there is a current HB staff member walking the high school halls today who can be found in yearbooks dating back 45 years–the legend, Mr. Michael Fox.

Fox’s many years at HB have provided him with a knowledge and perspective of the school that no other current teacher possesses.

“Nobody I started with is still around,” said Fox. “None of them are still working here.”

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While the rest of the words are older and worn, “MIDDLE” has only been added relatively recently. Photo Credit: Martin Bradshaw

Fox was a part of the faculty before Hollis-Brookline even existed. His time at HB began when it was just H– Hollis High School- Fox said, “When I first came here, seventh through twelfth [grade] was in [the high school]”–the high school then, which has since become the middle school.

As for how the cooperative district formed, according to Fox, “At one point, Brookline tuitioned their people in, and then we became a co-op.”

This was not before, however, Brookline students had to do some moving around. Fox said that for a time, Brookline students went to Nashua to go to school. They may have also gone to Milford, but that was before Fox’s time.

Times have changed for students at HB. Fox explains that the high school students’ lives have become much more stressful. There is a great deal more pressure now to go to college, and to end up being successful in today’s challenging and competitive job market.

Fox said, “I think as a whole, we’ve become more of a college-prep situation.” This is a change from the school system of the past, when there was less pressure to attend college because a college diploma was not the necessity that it is today.

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Students from Hollis High School, 1967. Photo Credit: Martin Bradshaw

The student body has also grown from a size small enough to fit grades seven through twelve in the current middle school building, before an addition was built a few years ago, to a size too large to fit even four graduating classes in the same building. Mark Illingworth is a teacher who has been part of the Hollis Brookline staff for 16 years and he tells us that, in that time, the number of students has doubled; Mr. Fox tells us that it has probably quadrupled since his arrival on the scene.

Students may also be unaware of the fact that Hollis Brookline’s auditorium wasn’t yet built when the construction of the high school building was finished. It wasn’t until a few years later that, thanks to private funds that were raised specifically for this purpose, the auditorium was added. Even now, it’s owned by the community, not the school.

720 days; 5,040 hours; four school years. Hollis-Brookline students spend so much time learning in classrooms, day-in and day-out. Ironically, hardly any of that time is spent learning about the very building in which we sit for such endless hours. So much happened before today’s students even set foot in the doors of HBHS.