Features

Ell Pond

... I remember

by Jerry Norton


Several interesting articles have recently appeared in the Mirror about that Melrose
centerpiece, Ell Pond. I also share recollections, stretching back to the early days
of the Great Depression about that shallow, murky body of water. Memories linger on
and I must admit that a few of them are less than upbeat.

Don Norris' story about the raft anchored just off shore on the north side of the
pond was familiar to me. Swimming through that fuzzy water to get to it was a
challenge. I am surprised that the Board of Health had not, even then, put the pond
off limits to swimming. I can only guess that our hygienic standards were somewhat
lower in those days. Oh...and that mucky trek from the water's edge to the bath
house, while being harassed by dragonflies, was no walk in the park. And a high
school built on a big bog was quite a feat of engineering. In my mind's eye I can
still see the sidewalk leading to the school with the ground falling away beneath
it.

Jack Driscoll's sudden descent through broken ice into the frigid pond carries a moral with it...skating backwards can be dangerous. However, this writer has no excuse for his own wintertime rendezvous with Ell Pond's cold water. That unplanned adventure has been written about in a previous issue of the Melrose Mirror. And I was skating straight ahead! Like Jack, I luckily escaped a case of frostbite while on that run home in frozen pants. In wintertime that old body of water did serve, in good stead, we kids who lived on the south side of Melrose. It used to freeze solid enough to provide a convenient short cut across for our commute to high school. Sometimes the ice would be snow-covered, giving the pond the appearance of a big treeless open field.

The Norris' pictorial tour around the pond was very interesting in that it revealed the many "upgrades" which the City has added through the years. Most of these improvements were unavailable to people of my generation. But getting rid of the bulrushes, gunk and dragonflies which inhabited the north side has to be the crowning achievement. I am reminded of the old joke about the farmer who invited his minister to visit his well-kept and prosperous farm. The minister was very impressed and said what a wonderful job the farmer, together with God, had done to make it so.

To which the farmer replied, "Yeah preacher, but you should have seen this place when God was working it by himself."


August 3, 2012


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