Loss of buildings bears memories
Demolition brings out past experiences
Throughout the years, the hub of the college in which students regularly congregated and socialized has bounced around various locations, but remained roughly in the middle of the campus.
Today, the middle of the campus is a graded lot full of rubble, heavy machinery and turned dirt. What once stood in that lot, aside from a viable hub for students to relax in, were the Humanities Building, Student Activities Building and Amphitheater.
These original pieces of Contra Costa College, which will remain in the memories of the students and college employees that once learned, taught and grew in them, were demolished to make room for the new Campus Center, scheduled to open in fall 2016.
Those structures had been on CCC's campus since it first opened.
"A lot of memories went down with those buildings," Melody Hanson, senior executive assistant to the president, said. "A lot of fond memories."
Such sentimental memories will not soon fade.
Hanson said she remembers the campus as far back as when she was 8 years old, when she attended gem and mineral shows with her family in the Fireside Room.
"I remember when there were actually fires in the fireplace there," she said.
Journalism professor and department Chairperson Paul DeBolt was a student at CCC from 1973-75 and remembers the masses of students that used to congregate between the H and the LA buildings. He describes the location as one of the early gathering spots on campus.
Small, cramped classrooms that felt the scorn of the sun by midday are forever ingrained in DeBolt's mind whenever he recalls the old H Building, he said, adding that is probably the reason why a large portion of the building was converted into Admissions and Records in the early 1980s.
Before this time, Admissions and Records was located in the Art Building.
Hanson remembers when Admissions and Records was housed in the H Building when she was a student. She said she remembers waiting in long lines to enroll for classes. Despite the building feeling a bit claustrophobic, Hanson recalls her time spent there as "good."
DeBolt also recalls the designated smoking room that was in the H Building, near where the math department was located before moving to its current swing space in the Applied Arts Building.
"It only lasted about two years," he said. "It was a really dumb idea."
Even after such a short run, the cigarette smoke left that room reeking for years to come, DeBolt said.
District Governing Board Trustee John Marquez, who was a student at CCC in the late 1960s and early 1970s, said, "The H Building was very popular in my days at CCC. I remember many meetings, getting input from others. It was there that I noticed the lack of a Chicano studies department and became a student leader of a group that met with college officials and the chancellor to make (that department)."
Marquez not only co-founded the Latino Club in 1969, but was involved in the formation of the La Raza studies department as well.
"I am proud to say that I am one of the founders of that department," he said.
Marquez also reminisces about the various performances he witnessed in the old Amphitheatre.
Marquez said Carlos Santana played in the Amphitheatre in his early days, and that Tower of Power also once played at the Amphitheatre.
He said he recollects the raucous scene, saying that local high school students had cut class to come see Tower of Power that day and that the Amphitheatre was so packed that there were students on the roof of the Student Activities Building just to get a good view.
Another notable guest to visit CCC was political activist Angela Davis, who spoke to students in the Amphitheatre on the Friday following the Rodney King verdict in May 1992.
Darris Crear, lead operations assistant for the Bookstore, said he holds dear many memories from his time as a student in the late 1990s.
As a member of the Associated Students Union in 1999, Crear spent much of his time in the old Student Life Center, between the Bookstore, the ASU chambers and the cafeteria.
During that time in the college's history, that portion of campus acted as a hub for students, he said.
"Everyone hung out in the cafeteria back in the day. You were almost guaranteed to see your friends pass through at one time or another. It was the hub of the campus for a while," he said. "It's interesting to think about how many students passed through it. And now it's just gone."
DeBolt said, "Buildings don't last forever. Everybody goes through it - if you live long enough, you see old things go. Watching those buildings get demolished so quickly, it was really sad. They sure took them down fast."
But timing is everything for a college trying to increase enrollment and persistence while modernizing the campus. The new Campus Center is due to open in fall 2016.
Crear said he is looking forward to the new center.
"Change can be a good thing, and that building needed a change," he said. "Every big rainstorm, the ceiling in the back stockroom (of the old Bookstore) would leak."
The new Bookstore that will open within the new Campus Center is said to be very modern and more customer friendly, he said, though a concrete floor plan has yet to be decided.
"The construction of the new Campus Center is exciting. I'm just a sentimental old fool," Hanson said. "The new buildings are for the next generation to become attached to."
Marquez said, "I know that the students in the surrounding community will be proud of the new structures once they (the buildings are up and they (students) can see them. A lot of thought and effort has been put into their design."
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