When Doves Cry :: A Goodbye to Archbishop Blenk One Last Time
I am in mourning.
Along with all of my fellow Dove sisters, we found out recently that the building that our beloved school, Archbishop Blenk High School, once stood in is set to be demolished by the city of Gretna soon. The news was sent out like a shockwave, our alumni community being very tight knit. After everyone realized that it is a safety issue and no way to save it, we all kicked into memorialization of our precious high school. The Goodbye Blenk Campus Facebook group has over 1,300 people in it, most of us hoping for one more chance to tour the campus before demolition. In the meantime, we’ve been sharing pictures and stories of our time spent at Blenk, and it is a true testament to just how special it really was. The traditions run deep and I forever feel bonded to all these amazing women, regardless of their graduation year.
With Thomas Jefferson having taken over the campus, I still proudly told my kids every time we drove down Gretna Boulevard “That’s where Mom went to high school!” as I remember my four years spent in those breezeways fondly. Even though Blenk hasn’t technically existed since 2007, there was still comfort in driving past that old brick building with its signature blue doors. It won’t feel the same when it’s gone, a legend that it once was, another “ain’t there no more.”
Archbishop Blenk High School opened it’s doors in 1962 and was (sorry Immaculata friends, I have to say it) the best all girls Catholic School on the Westbank for 46 years! After Hurricane Katrina, it was merged with Immaculata to create Academy of Our Lady after much protest by the local community. We all felt the blow then when we lost our alma mater, but something about them demolishing the building now feels … final.
Like the generations that came before me, I truly cherish all my time that I spent at Blenk. Having just moved to Louisiana in 1998, I went to high school not knowing a single person. I didn’t come from a local elementary school like most girls had, but I quickly found my people. And more people, and more people! That’s what I loved about Blenk so much, it was a small school so you got to know everyone. The faculty, the students, we all just felt like a family. I miss the days of flying down Gretna Blvd to school, honking and waving at Mr. Jung, the man that lived by the canal. I miss the days of getting excited about potato bar and bagged milk. I even miss having my name called during morning announcements (ha!). I’d go back in heartbeat and do it all over again if I could, because Archbishop Blenk High School gave me some of the greatest years of my life.
When Blenk first opened, The Marianites of Holy Cross ran the school. A fellow alumni from 1978 commented how they taught the students to respect themselves and each other, as well as how to be independent in a time when that was not encouraged for women. That is truly what our school produced – strong, independent, caring women! I was there in the days of Mr. Pooley, Mrs. Todd, and Ms. Verret – three educators I will never forget. Thank y’all for putting up with the class of 2002 for those 4 years, I know we didn’t make it easy on you! And Mrs. Linda Distefano, a true angel when she was on this Earth. I know if you were an angsty teenage girl like me, you definitely sat across from her at one point and got some good advice. Mrs. Wilkinson as well, I will never forget watching 9/11 happen in her room and how glad I was she was with us. Mr. Bordelee and all of my other English teachers, who didn’t bat an eye at all my weird creative writing ideas. All of our teachers were so amazing in their own ways – there are way too many to name! I am sure we all had our favorites. Even Mr. Soule, who would tell us to play in the bushes / traffic / with the wolves, made our time there so so good. To all the old faculty, know that you made a difference in all of our lives throughout your time there. Blenk was a blue ribbon school and provided us with not only a great education, but a place that truly felt like a second home while we were there.
Blenk was the absolute best, I don’t care what you say! We had such a rich student life on our beautiful little campus, it feels like nothing ever could have compared. From the minute you arrived as a freshman, you were assigned a big sis and given a decorated beanie. It’s like you joined a sorority that you didn’t ask to be in all of the sudden. I walked around Oakwood mall dressed ridiculous, doing dares one afternoon. It was silly, it was fun, and we were DOVES! My big sis Kim is still a good friend of mine, and even ended up babysitting my daughter a decade after graduation. Don’t even get me started about our blazers or how
important the pins were! The day we got our senior pins was such a special day. From Field Day to Powder Puff to our retreats – we were one big family. You knew when it was someone’s birthday because they’d always have a giant bunch of balloons from the bookstore. No Blenk PE class was complete without “Sweating To The Oldies” or running that mile around the neighborhood. We had sacks of rice as babies, “holy” grass we couldn’t walk on, painted all our windows at Christmas, and battled it out every year for the Spirit Stick. I’m telling you, no one will ever convince me they had more fun than us. I always remember seeing all the older ladies (that’s me now) at parades (shoutout to Cleopatra) who would loudly sing our alma mater as we marched by. I use to giggle at them, but now I get it. Once you’re a Blenk Dove, you are a Blenk Dove forever. It is a sisterhood that lives on, longer than any building.
Blenk was always its own little anomaly it felt like. We didn’t feel like the other Catholic schools in the area, we were Blenk Girls and that spoke for itself back then. We were the girls that waded through knee high water to get to our parents’ cars on rainy days. We were the girls who sat doodling our agendas for hours in the cafeteria listening to music because we somehow scheduled ourselves 12 mods off in a row. We were the girls that would wrap our thumbs around each other, and proudly fly our little hand doves in the air when DJ Jubilee asked for the name of our school at the Shaw back to school dance. The girls in the blue & grey skirts, walking on the back of our penny loafers and pushing down our wig-wam socks. We felt cool, whether we were or not was irrelevant to us. Our school was unique and it was special, and I am so sad that it feels like another era is ending.
As we closed out all the assemblies we spent together, I think we should do it the right way one more time: