... Purloined collection of email from Melrose High's '49ers, summer '99:
Editors' Note: A direct benefit of the then-newly established bulletin board for the Melrose High Class of '49 this past fall were the memories of the town as it was half a century ago. The ensuing thoughts were collected - purloined, filched, heisted, what's the word? - from the email that dealt with our center of attraction, Ell Pond. They provide an amusing if not exactly scientific view.
Hi all, I have a very vivid memory of the swimming area in front of the knoll, at Ell Pond. I was about 4 or 5 years old and Mother took me there for an afternoon of splashing around. I wandered off into the weeds and tripped and went down in the water. Lucky for me, two teeners were playing catch and turned around just in time to pull me up, choking and sputtering.
Seldom correct, but, never in doubt...
Editor's Note: Al is gone now.
I don't believe I ever went swimming at the pond, but I do recall ice skating there now and then, and getting really cold in so doing. In our pickup hockey games, I was usually relegated to playing goalie because I was the worst and slowest skater and never mastered the art of skating backwards.
Bill and his wife are now retired in Venice, Florida.
Some further thoughts on Ell Pond:
(1) I vaguely remember being taken to swim there in the mid '30s. Later the pond acquired a reputation for pollution, and we never went there.
(2) Phil Dalrymple introduced me to the swamp/meadow through which the major inlet brook flowed north of Melrose St. Not only did the brook drain much of the Highlands along the railroad tracks, but it was paralleled in the meadow by sanitary sewer lines laid out for the brook's easy gradient. Leaks in the sewers and a watershed extending from Frankliin Square to Stoneham and Greenwood probably led to very polluted water.
(3) The outlet brook to Malden ran through an open channel in the '30s between Friends' Beans and Snaith's Barbershop. It was visible from the ladies' hairdressing salon at the back of the shop, and contained a raging torrent during a heavy summer rain.
(4) I remember seeing a Park Dept. dump truck plowing the snow from the ice on the pond to permit skating. I assume someone had measured the thickness before driving out on the ice.
(5) As a 7th grade student at Roosevelt School I was intrigued by the brook culvert ending at the playgound, and brought a flashlight to school to explore the tunnel one afternoon. Andy Brown, et al., had exactly the same idea that day, and several of us went up the tunnel until its dimensions were greatly reduced. We were oblivious to hazards from methane gas or roof collapse. I'm told that kids had also explored the main Ell Pond inlet brook tunnel from the meadow in back of Albion St. toward the Highland RR station.
Don and wife Phyllis are retiring from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.
The only time I can ever remember swimming in the "Pond" was the time I fell through the ice one early winter day when we shouldn't have been there any way ... Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the way you look at it, I was close enough to shore to wade out. I can remember many a time skating there ... The worst part was getting the skates laced up. I never could figure out how every one else could do it without their fingers freezing clear up to the elbows.
About the most adventurous time there, was when a bunch of us were going to see if we could walk to Malden via the outlet on Main Street. At least that was the rumor out as to where the tunnel went to. We made it to the first corner where it became totally black and started to smell fairly ripe. That was the end of that exploration and we never did make it into the history books along with Byrd, Amundsen and the rest of the greats. Later on, I think we all realized we were lucky we didn't make it into the obituaries.
Then there was a store overlooking the pond from Main street that use to sell bubble gum, cigarettes to any one and magazines to be snuck into the house and hidden under the bed. But that's another story. The pond today has suffered the same fate as most urban ponds. Beautiful to look at but deadly to touch. "Civilization" With apologies to people who can type and spell.
Brian Simm. Class of '49
Brian and Priscilla Simm (MHS '50) have a beautiful home in Hillsboro, NH.
Hi All, Cal Gardner at Ellie's system.
Hearing all the chatter about our brave and intrepid exploring days at Ell Pond, has made me think. OK - I know that it is an unauthorized activity, but ...
We have heard much about how we explored the culvert where the brook exited the pond. What hasn't been commented on is the structure of the culvert entrance.
I seem to recall that there was a rather large metal grid in front of the entrance. Cast iron, I assume, much like the covers to storm sewers. I say cast iron as I don't recall any maintainance being done on it. Its function was to keep the really big chunks out of the culvert. You would need the grand daddy of all plumbers snakes to clear a block between 1/8 and 1/4 mile downstream.
The grid was not flush to the stone embankment, but a small opening was left on each side. Just enough room for us to slip through and start our epic adventure.
(Editor's Note: Ellie [Eleanor Amazeen Mauriello] died just before the 50th reunion, in 1999. Cal resides in southern New Hampshire).
Sort of looks like the "Pond" was the "Mediterranean" to a lot of us... Seems we either walked around it, through it or over it at sometime in our years in Melrose... It was a great view to take in from afternoon study hall in MHS and day dream that you were somewhere else... especially on a warm day in late May or early June. My summers were spent deep in the Northern Maine woods and I started counting the days to when I would return there about mid-September.
Who would have thought that a mention of Ell Pond could have gotten such response. My own memories are more of Mt. Hood, where the ponds could certainly match Ell Pond in slime and blood suckers. (I remember a collection of them in bottles in the basement, easy to collect if you were willing to stick a leg in the water for a few seconds). The other thing I remember about the pond was the first time I tried skates and wondering if I could ever get off my ankles. (I have a photo from that time that proves I did it at least once).
Also tried some skating in rinks in my 60's and found that skates had become more user-friendly in 50 years and that a rink with a railing was a whole lot less intimidating than an open pond (and it usually had a better wind-chill factor).
Struggled with the golf off and on until mid-30's. Then just a few years ago went out a couple of times with Bob and Karin Holmes and finally learned that golf could be fun - if you didn't keep score.
Finally, speaking of Ell Pond, I was recently given a copy of a Free Press insert from May 1, "Celebrating 100 Years". It has a chronological listing of Melrose events in the year 1949. The entry for Aug. 25: "A large water ballet, involving complicated synchronized swimming, marks the close of the summer season at Ell Pond. In addition to ordinary water races and games, the Park Commission has devised two new contests this year. Those 14 and up can sign up for a 25-yard swimming race in which their hands are tied behind their backs and another one in which their feet are tied." This for the pond of slime and blood suckers? Or maybe the fact that contestants had to have their hands or feet tied was consistent with our memories.
Stu (Gus) Robinson
Gus and his wife Mary live in Boston now.
Don, Many years ago here in London, there was a witty man called Smith (well, he would be, wouldn't he?). He was a friend of an irascible fellow named Brougham (pronounced 'Broom') and of another man, whose name escapes me but who was often found talking about the North Pole, for one reason or another. One day this fellow reported to Smith that he had held forth on the North Pole to Brougham, and Brougham had said, "Damn the North Pole" and had walked off. Smith replied, "Oh you can't trust Brougham. Why not a fortnight past, I heard him speak most disrespectfully of the Equator." I thought of this episode, reported in Hesketh Pearsall's biography of Smith, called "The Smith of Smiths," because I want to say, "Damn Ell Pond" and hope that someone can come back with as witty a retort as Smith's.
Best -- Larry Eldredge
Larry and wife Karen emigrated backwards to Oxford, England.
Here is my contribution:
I think we should have a small drumlin knoll for dam(n)ing Ell Pond!
Dave is retired and raises horses in Madison, Wisconsin.
You all have certainly increased my interest in "The History of Ell Pond". I am anxiously awaiting more information.
However, I so think that you have missed one highly important bit of information that was told to me when I was but a little tyke, by an older girl (anywhere from 2 months to at least 2 years older than I). I am referring to the undeniable truth that Ell Pond never froze too well in even the severest winters. This phenomenon is do to the oil tank truck that broke through the ice -- right in the middle of the pond -- and leaked all of the oil out into the water.
How did the oil truck get out to the middle of the pond? Of course, it was driven out there.
Why did the oil truck get driven out onto the pond? Of course, to get to the other side.
Why did the oil truck get "aimed" to the other side of the pond? Of course, to deliver heating oil to homes on the other side of the pond.
Why didn't the oil truck get driven on paved roads around the pond? I don't think it ever occurred to me to ask that question.
I hope that this historically accurate (well, at least, I believed it at the time) information will help in your compiling the history of this historical landmark.
Ed lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Good morning, 49ers. I have some miscellaneous notes.
Do you recall our rambling conversation on Ell Pond? I have been gathering further background info on both the pond, the ice age that created it, and then the geological history of this section of the country.
One thing lead to another, and I now have over 200 print-out-pages dealing with the history of Earth -- all, of course, as it relates to Ell Pond. Amazing! Most of it is off the internet.
I am still looking for that elusive geologist who will walk the ground with me. We tried MIT, no success yet. I may have found one fellow in Gloucester, retired and official environmental geologist for that city.
Logic tells me that the bottom of Ell Pond is nothing more than ancient bedrock, littered with silt, clay, decayed vegetation and old cars. What think you? Perhaps a Loch Ness monster?
Don and Lorry, both natives of New Jersey, remained in Melrose where he is an editor for MIT's SilverStringers.
Dear Don and 49ers,
I've really been enjoying all the stories about the reunion. It sounds like everyone had a wonderful time reconnecting with old friends.
Now, a few comments about Ell Pond!! I walked past Ell Pond EVERY day in order to get to school. I can testify that the wind was not influenced in the least by the trees. There was a force much larger that sent that COLD wind across the Pond so that on most days you had to lean into it. In fact many a morning I thought the wind waited in the wings until I put in an appearance. I skated on the Pond often, so it did freeze over okay, but there were areas that didn't freeze that were clearly marked. Also, before they posted the sign letting people know that the Pond was frozen and safe for skating, they sent a TRUCK across the pond to test the ice--usually a fire truck. Now, MAYBE one year while all the fire trucks were busy, they sent an oil truck and, halfway across the Pond the ice cracked and swallowed up the truck, which sent a message that it was not time to post a "safe for skating" sign.
I must have been skiing at Mount Hood that day, because I don't remember any news about an oil truck in Ell Pond.
Warm and cold memories!!
Dawn Gittes Blachman
Hi Dawn. Now YOUR stories I believe! Those fairy tales submitted by some unnamed member of our class who speaks of oil trucks taking shortcuts across the pond sounds to me like so much balderdash. Furthermore, the subsequent dredging operation turned up no such truck, and the Mayor was madder than a wet hen.
So you postulate that it was a fire engine they sent across the ice to test it for safety, eh? Well, that's more reasonable than a fully loaded oil truck. Perhaps the dredging crew was looking for the wrong vehicle.
I do believe the wind bit. I was told that the northwind waited for dawn to really begin it's journey across Ell Pond. Does that sound reasonable?
I firmly believe that my versions of the Ell Pond history and the Wind Generator Theory have been entirely corroborated by Dawn's contributions. Thank you, Dawn. for your contribution, although it has yet to change the minds of a few disbelievers and nay sayers. I take solace in the fact that even Newton had apples thrown at his head when he tried to advance scientific knowledge!
It just occurred to me that a good source on the geological history of Melrose would be our classmate, Ira Furlong. Ira has a Ph.D. in geology from BU, and recently retired from the faculty at Bridgewater State U. I don't have his address handy, and I don't know if he's into email. I'll obtain his US mail address from our Xmas list as soon as Phyllis gets home.
What little geology I know I learned from commuting to BU with Ira for 4 years, and from Nancy Wells Jackman's late brother, Ted.
May 5, 2000