The Durfee Bells Preservation Society, Inc. began in 2001, after a group of Durfee alumni, led by Janice Curry, Class of 1937, raised concerns that the Durfee Bells were silenced after the original B.M.C. Durfee High School closed on Rock Street. The bells were stored away and were silent until their rededication on the Elsbree Street campus of the “new” B.M.C. Durfee High School of Fall River.
The Fall River School Committee and the Fall River School Department selected a site adjacent to the playing fields and then, more than $500,000 was raised through exclusively private contributions from more than 1,000 Durfee alumni and other supporters to build a new bell tower and enhance the original bells with additions to ensure more musical selections could be played. About a thousand memorial bricks were sold and placed around the bell tower in what is called a “Pathway of Memories.” Additionally, benches were sold and engraved, appropriate landscaping was provided and the Durfee Bell Tower is now a featured iconic structure, providing new “fond memories” of recent, current and future graduating classes of Durfee.
Now, the current School Committee and School Department has determined and is promoting that the Durfee Bell Tower needs to be dismantled and at a public cost that assuredly will surpass the cost of the more than $500,000 of private funds collected to build the Bell Tower, relocate the bells in a new tower to be located on top of the proposed next “new” Durfee High School and moving the memorial bricks and benches to other locations, to be determined. This wasteful expenditure of taxes would be better spent on the education of students rather than on moving bells, bricks and benches paid for through private fund-raising.
As a board member of the Durfee Bells Preservation Society, Inc., former School Committee member, City Councilor and tax payer, I oppose this planned relocation of the Durfee Bells, Pathway of Memories and memorial benches. The public cost of implementing this ill-conceived plan will not enhance education at the proposed “new” Durfee and will reverse not only the commitment of the Fall River School Committee and School Department that previously designated this “memorial” location but will denigrate and destroy a “memorial” that took nearly two decades to create with contributions from thousands of alumni and others, all committed to creating an iconic structure that celebrates the history of the Durfee Bells and the commitment to make this vision, a reality.
I ask the voters of Fall River to vote “No” on the March 6 Special Election and to honor the decision of the past School Committee and School Department and to respect the cherished commitment and financial investment made by thousands of Durfee alumni and their supporters by designing a “new” high school without destroying the memorial Durfee Bell Tower and the surrounding “Pathway of Memories” now on the Elsbree Street campus of B.M.C. Durfee High School of Fall River.
Steven A. Camara