Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fifty Thousand on Jamaica Pond Ice? Wow!

Imagine a winter carnival on Jamaica Pond today? No, you can't. Between litigious citizens and CYA politicians, it could never happen, even assuming you could get past the "Save the Pond" types and the NIMBY neighbors. Today's Jamaica Pond in the winter is for looking, not touching.

Boston Daily Globe January 9, 1925.

Herd 50,000 Ashore Fearing a Disaster.

Police Clear Jamaica Pond of Merry Makers When Mayor Sees Ice Threatens to Give Way.

Warning Given by Water Abrupt End to City’s Annual Carnival

Firemen Help to Draw Crowd Skating Races Provide Good Sport

More than 50,000 young people were in the midst of a perfect evening of skating on Jamaica Pond last night, at the annual ice carnival of the city of Boston, when, suddenly, about 9:30 o’clock, nearly 50 policemen appeared and ordered everyone off the ice. Mayor Curley, who had just arrived at the carnival to give out the prizes in the various contests, quickly noticed that large, black patches of water had appeared about the pond. Fearing that the ice, softened by the warmth of the last few days, was about to collapse under the weight of humanity it was bearing and precipitate the merry thousands to their deaths, he ordered the police to clear the pond.

Orders were rushed to the Jamaica Plain station for all men available and in a short time a long thin line of uniformed men was formed on the dark shore opposite the boathouse, the center of of carnival activities.

Big Rush to Shore

The policemen went about their work quietly and then at a given signal the line advanced across the pond, ordering all the skaters to make for the shore. Every precaution was taken not to alarm the merrymakers, but suddenly hundreds seemed to notice the ominous spreading of the black water across the ice and a great rush for the shore followed

But the rush, big as it was, only included a small proportion of the vast throng and the long, thin line of the police quietly continued its advance across the pond, sweeping up the skaters before it like a net clearing a stream of fish.

Mayor Curley was accompanied by Fire Commissioner Theodore A Glynn. When the Mayor ordered the police to work, Commissioner Glynn ordered his aide John Crehan, to go over to Engine 28 nearby and call out several pieces of apparatus for, in case the ice should break, the firemen could save a great many lives with their ropes and ladders.

The apparatus responded quickly and, as the danger appeared to be no more threatening than at first, the Commissioner ordered the apparatus to drive about the shores of the pond, blowing horns and whirling sirens in hopes that numbers of skaters would think that a big fire was going on, and thus leave the ice of their own free will and without being alarmed.

The maneuver was very successful and drew hundreds of boys and young men, and not a few young women.

Great Crowd on Ice

So large was the crowd that it was almost an hour before the ice was finally cleared.

A large number of the skaters, for everyone who attended the carnival seems to be wearing skates, made for the shores of the pond, where their belongings had been left, but, at least 25,000 had parked their shoes and belongings at the places provided about the boathouse, and toward the narrow gangway leading up to the building from the ice, the horde converged.

Fully a dozen policemen had been stationed there to handle the expected jam and they discharged their task admirably but the congestion was tremendous. It was like Revere beach on the Forth. The line of persons waiting their turn to reach the checking room where their shoes had been stored was long, winding about through the crowd for more than 100 yards.

The whole space within the boathouse courtyard was packed with humanity and seats upon which to effect the change from skates to shoes were at a premium.

Hundreds of seats there were, but there were thousands of applicants for them.

Skating carnivals are, as a rule, slow to break up, and the sudden swarming of the thousands of refugees upon the streets of Jamaica Plain attracted great attention and hundreds and hundreds of persons rushed down from their homes to the pond, either fearing or having heard reports that a great disaster had taken place.

Many of the carnival makers had come from out of the district and the sudden rush to the street cars paralyzed traffic for some time. Not only were the cars forced off their schedules but it was almost impossible to find a seat so crowded were the cars.

Crowd Set New Record

One police sergeant declared that he had seen crowds on the pond for more than 29 years, but he never saw so large a host there before.

Before the firing off of the bombs to announce the opening of the carnival, the ice seemed to be in good shape. As the first race started, however, sounds of cracking ice were heard and water started to flow over the track near the starting point. Patrolman Leo Masare of Station 19 and officers Walsh and Noonan of Station 17, on duty at this point, at once moved all persons in the vicinity a few hundred yards back.

The first race was won by Andrew Moore, it being a one-mile event for boys under 18 years of age. He was followed by O. Laguenesse, with Teddy Combs, third.

In the girls’ event in this class, Helen Maloney was the victor with Mary Boucher, second and Genevieve Weikesser, third.

The mile open went to Cecil Atkins and H. McCarthy took second place. James Cadek was third.

At the close of this event, the water was above the soles of the shoes of the skaters so Park Commissioner Myron B. Lewis and other officials decided to call off the racing events.

Fancy skating exhibitions however were given in another section of the pond, featuring Willie Frick and Bill Fleming.

The costumes awards were also made. Miss Corrine Dasey of Dorchester took the first prize for costumes. She is a widely known skater and a member of the Boston Swimming Club. Second prize went to Helen Brady and Mary Dover took third.

The hockey game had just started when Mayor Curley arrived on the scene with his daughters, Mary and Dorothy, and his son James M, Jr. The Mayor was escorted to the raft by Sergt John Fitzpatrick of the police and when he saw the conditions of the ice, notified Park Commissioner Lewis and the sergeant to order the pond closed to skaters, as it was deemed unsafe.

Mayor Acts Quickly

“The lives of our citizens is our first thought,” said the Mayor, “and we must take no chances with them.”

Sergt Fitzpatrick summoned Sergts Holstein, Dennis Kerrigan and Timothy Ferris and under the direction of Lieut George Guard, they with special officer Stanley A. O(?)w notified all the officers on duty of the order, and the police at once began to enforce it.

Fire Commissioner Theodore A. Glynn then said that he would send for his apparatus so as to have the fireman ready if any rescue work was needed. John Crehan, his aid, went for engine 28 and its response was almost instantaneous.

The officials in charge of the carnival included the Park Commissioners, James B. Shea, Myron P. Lewis, and Charles A. Coolidge, John A. Lane, Alfred Geiger of the B.A.A., Hugh C. McGrath, George V. Brown, Ernest Henry, Dick Adler, L.H. Connors, Ross Hoag, Dr. Allan Rowe, and Dr. William P. Kenney.

After his orders had been carried out, Mayor Curley awarded the prizes to the winners on the land near the boathouse.


  1. Wow, imagine the whole population of JP today out on the ice.

    Thanks for digging up this story. I have been thinking as I drive by the pond these past few days what a shame it is not to be able to skate on it. But I guess the policy is for the better, I guess.

  2. To think how differently things were handled then. No studies and no permits. Quick wits and good sense though. And prizes, of course.

  3. the ice is plenty thick now ... how about a re-enactment this weekend?

  4. I just walked around the pond two days ago. Definitely not thick enough yet - I heard cracks when I walked a few feet out.

  5. Yes, to hell with caution. Let's get everyone on the ice and see what happens!


  6. Sometimes the "good ole days" really were just that! Thanks Laura.