I have passed through many doors over the course of my sixty-two years. Some, like the doors to Boston Latin School, were opened by a score on a standardized test. My arrival before others, like the doors at Advanced Systems that welcomed me into a career in large-scale testing, can best be described as dumb luck. (I will change that to fate or destiny for my memoir.)
Growing up in Boston, there were lots of cool doors, and gates, to pass through. There were field trips to the Museum of Science with Spooky the Owl and the Hayden Planetarium, the Museum of Fine Arts with its Egyptian artifacts, the Franklin Park Zoo, and later the New England Aquarium. The exhibits behind each of those doors connected the work that we were doing in school to the world outside of the classroom. There was Fenway Park, the Boston Garden, and the Brattle Book Shop, places in which I spent countless happy hours.
As I look back on my youth and childhood in Boston, however, there is one set of doors that I remember most fondly. Those doors belonged to the War Memorial Auditorium. Dedicated in 1965, the War Memorial Auditorium was described as “the showplace of the New Boston,” that would “provide a practical showcase for the life and vitality that is the New Boston.” Later it was renamed the Hynes Auditorium after the mayor who championed the New Boston development campaign. Described as “ungainly,” the space might best be described to an education audience as Boston’s multi-purpose room.
I keep looking for something more
I always wonder what’s on the other side
Of the number two door
More so than even the museums, the Hynes Auditorium offered a world of possibilities that existed outside of my neighborhood and our provincial little city – even if it was the Hub of the Universe.
Shortly after the building opened, my imagination soared as I sat in a Gemini capsule and played with the switches on the control panel.
Each year, we took our coupons and attended the annual camping and RV show. None of us had ever been camping or anywhere near an RV, but the show offered a chance to dream of the outdoors; and with the fishing poles provided, we gathered around the giant rectangular pool that had been installed and tried to catch that one special fish that would yield the grand prize.
There was the time around 1970 when one of our neighbors in the triple-decker next door gave us free tickets from their son’s company to attend a live musical performance promoting this new show on public television called Sesame Street. This was long before Sesame Street Live became simply a vehicle to sell overpriced mylar Elmo balloons (If you’ve been to Sesame Street Live, no explanation is necessary; and you may be picking up on the theme that free or low-cost is an important part of this story).
I recall the night in 1975 when my father dropped off my sister and me along with one of my high school classmates and her younger brother in front of the Hynes Auditorium to attend an Up With People concert on our own with young people from across the city. A portion of the group had performed a short concert during an assembly at our school and other schools throughout the city to promote the show. Apparently, this was part of the city’s effort to help everyone just get along during the battle over school desegregation that was tearing the city apart.
Also related to school desegregation was the day our high school band was asked to play at the Hynes during a plenary session for a convention of school business leaders featuring Sen. Ted Kennedy – a lightning rod in the school busing debate – as the keynote speaker. We learned that day about appropriate protest behavior while representing our school and the city and sitting directly below the podium at the front of a crowded auditorium. (But just a few years later, I was part of the crowd waiting outside Faneuil Hall in Boston on the November morning Ted Kennedy announced his run for the 1980 presidential nomination. Oh, well. Times change.)
The Hynes Auditorium was also home to the Boston Globe Jazz Festival. After a five-year hiatus, the festival returned in 1976 with a Saturday evening concert that featured Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, pianist Oscar Peterson, and guitarist Joe Pass. That’s an evening that made quite an impression on this young musician and jazz enthusiast.
Door number two I’ve already walked through
I wanna see what’s behind door number three
Perhaps most significantly, Hynes Auditorium was the place where key milestones and transitions in our lives were marked. As a 9-year-old in June 1968, I watched my father receive his Master’s Degree in Education from Boston State College. In June 1977, we returned to the Hynes as I received my high school diploma from Boston Latin School. Hynes Auditorium sent us on our way to new adventures.
Like all of us, eventually Hynes Auditorium grew old and became obsolete. It was renovated and eventually replaced as the primary convention space in Boston. It certainly played an important role in my development, however, and I hope that kids currently growing up in Boston and other cities and towns have their own Hynes Auditorium to show them the world outside of their neighborhood and spur their dreams. It’s easy to think of a convention center in terms of the money and tourists it can bring into the city, but a place like the Hynes Auditorium offered so much more.