Your Parents' Boston College: The BC Campus of the 1980s

The year is 1984. Doug Flutie, Heisman trophy-winner, is the quarterback for BC football and has led the team to immense success. After gaining national attention from the newly prosperous football program, BC received a huge increase in applications. A new group of eager students looked forward to their next four years on the Heights, and among them were many of your parents.

Although Gasson was just as majestic as it is today, White Mountain still had the best ice cream and Bapst was an equally terrifying place to sneeze in as it is now, BC looked a lot different back in the day. Did you ever wonder what campus looked like when your parents—or one of your friends’ parents—were in your shoes?

Starting down at Lower Campus, BC’s appearance has undergone countless changes. Alumni Stadium, where fans could witness that amazing quarterback for themselves, was smaller. The seats did not reach as high and did not wrap all the way around, meaning the end zone closest to the Plex was open. Ron Murphy, '86, recalls being able to sit on top of the Plex with friends to watch football games, as there was nothing blocking the view of the field.

The Plex itself hasn’t changed much. Nancy McCartin, '81, says, the building looks "EXACTLY the same, which is unbelievable since so many students have used it, myself included, for many, many times over the four years there.”

There was no Campanella Way or Conte Forum. Basketball games were played in the Roberts Center, which had a much smaller seating capacity, making the games very intimate. Similarly, hockey games were played in a smaller arena called McHugh Forum.

Several of the dorms on Lower did not yet exist, including Vandy, 90, and Stayer. Instead, there was a lot more open space. And believe it or not, Walsh was actually new, and was referred to as “The New Dorm” by all students. Rubenstein and Ignacio were split up into different parts known as the “Hillsides” and Edmonds was known as the “Resis” (short for Edmonds Residentials).

When asked where the coolest place to live on campus was, John and Val Zona, ‘89, responded with (of course), “It was, and will always be, the Mods.”

As students made the trek up to middle campus, they took the Higgins Stairs, which the infamous Million Dollar Stairs would later replace. The Higgins Stairs were steeper and didn’t have as many platforms as the latter, and they also came with a special treat at the bottom: A man named Che Chi, who quickly became a campus legend, ran a sausage stand at the base of the giant staircase. If only Che Chi’s stand was still there today—we could all use some extra fuel before the climb up those stairs.

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

Next to the Higgins Stairs, the construction of O’Neill Library had begun in the early 1980s. Before O’Neill, most people studied in Bapst. Murphy reminisced about the intimidating realities of Bapst that seem to have transcended time: “Hard chairs, poor lighting and the silence of church. I take that back—a church has more noise!”

Another major change was the area now occupied by Stokes Hall. Before Stokes, the giant plot was called the “Dust Bowl.” The grass there was nowhere near as beautiful as the kind found in the quad today, and instead was full of dust, dirt and sand. But that didn’t stop students from making it a popular hangout spot, especially when the weather was nice.

As for dining halls, Mac and Eagle’s Nest were the primary places to eat and gather between classes. But The Rat, found in the basement of Lyons, wasn’t just a place to grab mac and cheese on Thursdays. At night, the dining hall was converted into a bar where they would serve drinks and play music. “The Rat” is short for “The Rathskeller,” which was a famous bar and music venue in Boston at the time. BC hosted many school-sponsored events there, and many students went to The Rat before going to musical events, or as Murphy puts it, whenever they had “any excuse to drink really cheap keg beer.”

Newton Campus was almost exactly the same as it is today. Most of Upper Campus was fairly similar, but many of the buildings have undergone some updates and renovations. Fitzpatrick and Gonzaga used to be separated; there was no connector with a lobby or lounges between them. And Upper was not strictly a freshman campus, as sophomores could live there as well.

Even though times have changed—greener grass, more academic buildings, and no Che Chi’s sausage stand—the spirit and traditions of BC have proved to be long-lasting.  Maybe someday we’ll be telling our own little Eagles about what has changed here. One day the horrors of CoRo, Transloc and Eduroam will (hopefully) be mere memories.

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