Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Sixteen Acres Pond Suddenly Vanishes, Part 2

When the film On Golden Pond came out in 1981 we had a running joke, reeking with irony, that its title was actually On Putnam’s Puddle—because Putnam’s Puddle was anything but a setting for a movie about an idyllic summer home. This Sixteen Acres pond was algae-choked and polluted to the point of being unswimmable, not to mention the fact that it stank mightily after it rained.

But it was OUR puddle, dammit, and to neighborhood kids it was the perfect retreat from civilization. And then, a year after our little joke about the movie, Putnam’s Puddle was gone forever, thanks to a gigantic hole at the bottom of the dam. (See A Sixteen Acres Pond Suddenly Vanishes, Part 1). The structure is pictured below in a photo taken by Mick, a Hell’s Acres follower.

Today our late, great Putnam’s Puddle exists only on maps. An old map on terraserver shows it in the “North Branch Tributary Park.”

Surprisingly, here is the image of the conservation land that you’ll find on Google Maps. The pond long gone, but the map wasn’t updated.

On February 3, 1982, part of the 55-foot-long dam at Putnam’s Puddle gave way, allowing all its water to empty onto North Brook Road and into Breckwood Pond, leaving just a stream in its basin to date. Unfortunately, there has been no attempt to fix the dam and refill this pond. I’ve written about this event before, but I wasn’t privy to what exactly went down that day.

I had heard what happened on the radio around noon, and I checked out what was left of the pond later that afternoon, but I had never read an “eyewitness” account until I contacted Michael Poole, who lived on Pidgeon Drive, on the north side of the pond. He didn’t see the dam give up the ghost, but he sure as hell heard it.

“I heard a very loud ‘boom,’ sounding almost like a crane swinging a huge I-beam into the side of a building,” according to Michael. He and his sister went for a walk to see what had happened and saw flooding at the end of North Brook Road. “We walked through the path towards the dam and saw that it had given way,” he wrote. “We actually watched the pond drain that day. Very sad, as our lives revolved around playing in those woods, fishing, catching frogs, and, most importantly, ice-skating.”

A grainy photo below shows Parks Department foremen James Denver and Frank Geoffrion checking out the scene the following day. The Springfield Union attributed the damage to heavy rains creating a surge of water that “smashed a hole about 30 square feet in the dam.”

I’m not absolutely sure, but I believe there were unbelievably cold temperatures for weeks prior to the rains, and some say that the downstream flow of water from sudden melting and flooding was impeded by ice on the dam. When the ice clogged the two spillways at the top, something had to give, and the base of the structure on the North Brook Road (the north) side was breached by the pressure. In the following photo you can still see the “cave” at the bottom where the concrete collapsed and the water rushed through. This is now the course of the stream as it makes its way to Breckwood Pond, Watershops Pond, the Mill River, and then the mighty Connecticut:

Some of the hole at its clay base has filled in with silt over the years. A climb down to ground level reveals more of the opening: the white spot in the middle of the crevice above the stream is actually sunlight shining on the east side (formerly the pond side) of the dam:

A whole section of the dam was moved back by the rushing water:

As I wrote in Spitting to All Fields, Part 1, the man-made pond was built in 1938 by the Work Progress Administration (WPA) workers, including my uncle’s father. Mayor Roger L. Putnam took a lot of heat for proposing this eight-acre body of water, which was derisively dubbed the “paddle pond for pigs” because of its proximity to a pig farm northeast of the site. Some people thought it was ludicrous to spend money to dig the “pig pen pond,” especially City Councilor Howard T. Jensen, the source of the porcine quotes. A headline read, “Putnam, Jensen Stick to Guns in the Sticks,” using the old and largely forgotten nickname for Sixteen Acres: The Sticks. But the project finally went forward.

Was this indeed a pork-barrel project (pun intended)? No comment. True, to prolong the six-month job, on one Friday afternoon in 1939, my great uncle and his fellow workers clogged the dam’s openings with sandbags to prematurely flood that portion of the ravine over the weekend. This resulted in additional work the following week to remove the blockage and drain the area. Oh well, it was the Great Depression, and—desperate times call for desperate measures.

People used to swim in the pond until the neighborhood went from rural to heavily residential through the 1950s, and occasional sewage overflow problems dating from the 1960s rendered it fit for only fishing and skating.

After the 1950s the city pretty much forgot about the pond—so much so that in 1964 few people knew why it was named Putnam’s Puddle:

But the kids on our street were very much aware of the pond—it was a place where we could free ourselves from adult supervision. Where else could we blow up Craig Stewart’s G.I. Joe jeep with an M-80 without the neighbors calling our parents?

Here are some of my Putnam’s Puddle stories, apropos of nothing.

The great race: Rick Riccardi in a rubber raft vs. Steve Hostetter on foot. They wanted to see who could go from the shore in front of Maebeth Street to the other side, directly across the pond, on the shore in front of Meadowlark Lane. On your mark, get set, go. Hostetter sprinted to the dam, crossed it, and easily won. Paddling that raft was more difficult than it looked.

How about our lame attempts at species relocation? Finding some baby bullhead catfish in brook leading from the dam, we had the brilliant idea to populate the pond with this fish, so we could expand our catches beyond the usual pumpkinseed and small-mouth bass. We caught them and let them go in the pond, but our experiment didn’t work. It didn’t occur to us that the pumpkinseed and the bass would undoubtedly eat the baby bullheads.

The brook leading INTO the Putnam’s Puddle, however, was rife with small salamanders. Wouldn’t it be great, we reasoned, to move a bunch of the salamanders into the brook behind the dam? We thought that they would multiply, and we wouldn’t have to go all the way down to the northeast end of the pond to catch them in the future. It was another exercise in futility. Why didn’t we realize that the catfish would eat the salamanders?

In the latter project, I discovered yet another animal species. As we fished salamanders out of the North Brook and put them into buckets, I held my hand out and declared, “Look! I found a salamander without any legs!”

“Let me see,” said Steve Hostetter. “That’s not a salamander! That’s a leech!”

“Aaaah!” I screamed and dug it off my hand with my fingernail.

I should actually be grateful I was able to spend half my youth “down the pond,” as we used to say, because Putnam’s Puddle was facing oblivion in 1956 when it was ruled a “hazard” by the Springfield School Committee. You see, part of the dam was washed away from the infamous Connecticut River Valley floods of 1955, and students who lived in the neighborhood on the north side of pond faced quite an obstacle crossing the pond to attend Glickman Elementary School off Wilbraham Road on the south side. Officials feared someone would fall off the damaged dam or walk across thin ice in the winter and fall through. An article from the Springfield Union on November 30, 1956 mentioned that two children nearly drowned there.

Above is a newspaper photo of the pond with the dam at the right during the height of this controversy. If you look carefully (click on the photo to enlarge it), you can see two kids standing on the shore and the water level looks pretty low. The uphill path behind them leading to Sunrise Terrace and Pineview Street is now completely overgrown. I know of no other photo of the old pond. Do you have any? Send them to hellsacres@gmail.com.

The School Committee wanted the pond drained! When that didn’t happen, the students’ parents demanded that their kids be bused to Glickman. The problem was eventually solved when the dam was patched up, a temporary bus was commissioned for the winter, and then the North Branch School was built in 1960, saving the precious “Wing Park” children from the long and perilous march across the Puddle.

What the hell is Wing Park? Let me explain. I’ll bet that many of you—except some of the older folks—have no idea that Wing Park was the name of the housing developments in the North Brook Road and North Branch Parkway areas. Many of the homes in the area were built by Raymond Pidgeon, for whom Pidgeon Drive is named. The “bird” concept took wing, so to speak, and there are streets over there named Sparrow, Partridge, Starling, Finch, Pheasant, and Meadowlark Lane. To the northeast are Ravenwood and Wrenwood Streets. Pictured below is the late Meadowlark resident and one of Sixteen Acres most infamous, uh, businessman. One of his nicknames was The Little Guy, but no one used that moniker to his face:

But, as I digress, as I so often do in Hell’s Acres. Back to the Puddle. “Dan and Pete D’Amario taught me how to play hockey on that pond,” wrote Poole. The latter, from the other side of the pond, was a Cathedral hockey star who grew up on Sparrow Drive and went on to play for the Memphis Riverkings in the CHL. He wasn’t the pond’s most famous hockey product, though. Ricky Bennett (pictured below), who lived on Pineview Street (on our side of the Puddle), enjoyed several cups of coffee in the NHL for the New York Rangers, and may have been the only player in history to play for both the Springfield Indians and the Springfield Falcons. He now coaches the Union College hockey team.

Bennett is pictured in a Sixteen Acres youth hockey team photo below at the top left, next to the coach.

There would be no more hockey on Putnam’s Puddle after the dam burst. The Puddle would send no other players to the NHL. “We were mortified,” wrote Poole. “I thought for certain that they would eventually rebuild the dam and fill the pond back up. Alas....”

Six years later, there was a petition with 400 names demanding the restoration of the dam and the pond, and the initial price estimates to fix the structure were as high as $500,000 but then the state Department of Environmental Protection declared that it was crumbled past the point of repair.

In 1992, hundreds of thousands of dollars were set aside for city dam projects at Mill Pond and Putnam’s Puddle, but nothing was ever done. In 1996 Springfield was supposed to receive state funding to restore Putnam’s Puddle. Does anyone have any idea what happened to the money? Only The Shadow knows. Now it's a brush-choked ravine.

I think it’s amusing that the “Kids on the Other Side,” the term we used in a tone dripping with disdain, almost doomed the pond in the 1950s with the School Committee’s threat to drain it. Because we DIDN’T LIKE the Kids on the Other Side. Not that we knew them personally or anything, but there were constant verbal battles across the pond, which usually began the second they saw us or we saw them.

“Hey!” someone inevitably yelled. “Fuck you!”

“Fuck you, motherfucker!” was the usual response.

Yes, everybody was a tough guy with the pond barrier in front of them.

We even carried on this cowardly act under the cover of darkness one night, when Dave O’Brien, Ray Vadnais, and I were partying at the Pothole and we could see some douche on the other side walking along North Brook Road with a boom box blasting Journey. That’s right: Journey!

“Turn that fucking shit off!” I bellowed. “I’m talking to YOU, you faggot!” Wow. I was profoundly stunned at how strongly my voice carried over to the other side. The pothole was halfway up the steep hill to Sunrise Terrace, so my fighting words were amplified with an amphitheater effect.

He stopped in his tracks. He turned down volume of the song “Any Way You Want It,” and turned around. “Fuck you, motherfucker! Come over here and make me turn it off!”

“We’re coming!” shouted Dave. “We’re gonna throw that box in the pond!”

“I’m gonna throw YOU in the fucking pond!” was his feeble rejoinder.

“You better run and get you’re fag friends, ’cause we’re on our way!” yelled Ray.

“I’ll be waiting right here!” he countered. We could see, under the glow of the streetlight, the guy walk up to a parked car and put the boom box inside, Then we got a good look at him as someone in the car handed him a shiny black object. Oh no!

Just kidding. He wasn’t the neighborhood’s favorite goodfella. He was just some fat loser, he didn’t have a car, and he didn’t wait for us. The douche kept on walking. And we stayed right were we were, sipping our Southern Comfort courage.

It took me years to realize that there was nothing to hate about Kids on the Other Side. Actually, we didn’t despise them back then. Yelling at each other and throwing rocks across the pond to ruin someone’s chances of catching a fish was just something to do. Obviously, the practice couldn’t continue after the dam gave way, because there were no more fish to catch and there was no pond to separate the two parties. The tradition of mouthing off to build up a mutually-assured non-fight came to an end.

Yes, the Kids on the Other Side were just like us. Hell, I’m even able to carry on an email conversation with Michael Poole, an Other Sider, without once resorting to insults and threats. That is, unless he was one of the people we had taunted in the past, and he decides to renew this rivalry.

In Spitting to All Fields, Part 1, I asked about the fate of Mark Gilfoil, who left his name in concrete on the dam in a 1970 grass roots repair project. Someone wrote in the comment section that he graduated from Tech in 1972 and was supposedly killed in a motorcycle accident. Indeed, I found the newspaper story of the crash. On July 22, 1974, Gilfoil, an Other Sider from Juniper Drive, collided with the side of a car on Route 23 in Otis and died instantly.

Not to get morbid or anything, but two weeks after the dam broke, 27-year-old James Fleming of Creswell drive (our side) died of exposure during freezing temperatures in the 42-acre Putnam’s Puddle woods. Three children found him down there on a Sunday morning on a path leading from the pond to Sunrise Terrace. He never made it up the steep hill. That was the last mention of Putnam’s Puddle in the Springfield newspapers for the next six years.

Except for the glimmers of hope of the dam’s restoration in 1988, 1992, and 1996, the only other time the Puddle made the news since Fleming’s death was massive sewage overflow into the stream in 1995 after vandals blocked the sewer line by opening manhole covers and dumping objects into the pipe.

Was Putnam’s Puddle cursed? No. But it had always suffered from municipal neglect. In 1979, the state determined the dam was unsafe and in need of repair, but it was left to deteriorate. In the 1956 article, a city counselor described the pond as “an eyesore” with broken bottles and tin cans scattered on the shore.

Eyesore? I think not. True, it sometimes stank, but we loved Putnam’s Puddle. It was OUR pig pen pond. And I would love to see it a pond again. Anyone game for clogging that gaping hole in the dam with sandbags? Screw the city. Sometimes if you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.


Redondo Dan said...

Thanks for the shout out, Mike.
In the mid to late '70's, there were several very good hockey players putting the puck between someones sneakers that were used for goal posts at Putnam's Puddle. The Kervick's, the Caine's, Chris & Brian Doyle, the McCarthy's, even Ricky Bennett's dad would show up. I'm sure I'm forgetting many more. Great times!
Dan D'Amario

Hell's Acres said...

Yes, Kevin Kervick went on to play for St. Anselm and the Pics. I'm not sure if Tom Quirk or any of the others went on to play college hockey.

Tim Doyle was a good hockey player but a better baseball player--I remember the Yankees organization was interested in him.

One time, after the Puddle had dried up, we played hockey on Venture Pond with Tim Doyle, and he "borrowed" five of our pucks when we had to leave. He promised to bury them in a snowbank so we could dig them up the next day, but he never did!

Tim, if you ever read this, you owe us five pucks!

Dottie Bennett said...

Great article. I learned alot about my neighborhood how Putnam's Puddle began. It is still sad to take a walk down there and see no more puddle!
Dottie Bennett

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Dottie,

Thanks for writing. There are still trails on the Sunrise Terrace side, but the ones on the North Brook Road side are all overgrown.

I fear that today's kids aren't enjoying the outdoors as much as we did. It looks like nobody goes down there any more, except for people who want to walk their dogs. It's sad.

Anonymous said...

More great reading. The picture with the hill leading to Pineview was one heck of a Toboggan ride. The reason it was the best hill wasn't just because of the S hill.....It was because of the water that never froze by the dam that had to be avoided. I missed once and was underwater in January. That was a quick run home! We used to carry water up the hill and pour it on the hill for ice. The red sled with waxed metal skies would get up enough speed to reach most of the way down the pond. You spoke of a raft race.....I personally built at least three rafts and used them. Like Huck Finn with pole pushing engine. Good times. They did fix the dam at some point probaly when T Gilfoil wet cemented his name. Does anyone remember the ice that used to form below the dam as it trickled through winter? Icicles 5 ft long. During one visit I fell and need many stitches to the knee.
There are more people from the North Brook Moss rd that have passed away. Howie M,Phil and Lori M,Holly and Harry K(sp), Beth W and few others. Harry K, nicknamed animal did some crazy things. Once he climbed so high up a tree that I think it was John Joe williams started cutting it down with an axe. He fell a long way LOL. He could also throw a hatchet like Daniel Boone. I will read on

Hell's Acres said...

I forgot that the ice never really froze in front of the dam! We used to sled down the hill across from Maebeth. Good to hear from an Other Sider!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto this site by accident,compelling reading, & when u spoke of yelling to the " other siders", @ 48 yrs old I quickly called a fellow "othersider" who lived right behind the corner of northbrook & northbranch. ( I lived on Pidgeon Dr.)
We really did laugh as we remembered yelling F. U . @ you guys & u at us....for no real reason!!! Man we laughed at that memory....but it wasn't us with the journey music!!!
I come from s big family of 16 acre ites & have many life long friends here, I'm passing along ur site for obvious reasons. Sorry we yelled the F U @ you guys , some of you turned out all right!!! LOL

Hell's Acres said...

I glad you stumbled upon this site. Do you how hard it was to catch a fish with Other Siders throwing rocks near my fishing line?

As a fellow Acres punk all I can tell you is that it's only natural to mindlessly yell FU across the pond in the '70s. It's hard to explain to others.

I do regret, however, us firing rocks near innocent people standing on the spillway near Meadowlark with our Wristrocket hunting slingshots!

Piparskeggr said...

Just discovered your Blog while searching for info on Laughing Brook, dug for more...

I'm from West Springfield and my wife is from Wilbraham, lots of family still back there (we're in southern Maryland now).

Thanks for the welling up of good memories.

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Piparskeggr,

Thanks for reading. Someday there will be a follow-up post to Laughing Brook. Did you go there often? I sure did.

Bill Bromage said...

Ran into this blog while doing a search for a Glickman School archive. I was born in 1954 and lived on Aldrew Terrace until 1969. Played down at the pond like it was my job. Fishing, rafting, hockey, rock throwing and blowing stuff up. The acres were some of the best days of my life. Not a care in the world.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Bill,

Glad you ran into my blog. Yes, the pond was something special, and while it is gone, I'm glad a couple of generations could enjoy it. Did you hate the "other siders" as well?

Anonymous said...

I am reading this blog and all the great comments. Very happy to see this. I was in the hood from 1954 to 1964. Putman's Puddle , which we all knew by name, was a huge part of our childhood. The fishing and skating was a way of life for me and my friends. We never had any animosity toward the Glickman kids, yes I was from the other side. I am sure we skated and played hockey with many of them. I have crossed that damn many times. Used to play in the storm sewers which dumped in to the brook flowing out of PP. I remember the sanitary sewers used to overflow on the Sunset side which was a disgusting sight and smell. All the sewage flowed down the hill in to the pond. That didn't stop us from fishing and frogging there. It was a sanctuary for us unconditionally. We did have a run in with Glickman kids one time on the wrong side of the brook. They tried to hold us up at knife point but they were foiled, huh. Just made us smarter, there were some bad boys on both side of the puddle. When I was there Wing Park did not exist, it was under construction. We spent a lot of time playing on the construction sites building forts. Stole a cement tub one time and dragged it down to the boat launch at he end of Meadow Lark and floated it down the pond. God we were stupid! But would not trade those days for anything

Hell's Acres said...

Thanks for writing. Did you ever swim in Putnam's Puddle? I think people did as early as the late 1950s, but I don't know how old you are. Yes, there were some bad boys on both sides of the pond and SUNRISE (not Sunset). Come to think of it, on our side some older kids pressed something onto my brother's back once and told us to run down the pathway. We did. My brother said later he thought it was probably a comb that the kid pretended was a knife lol.

To bad you got a real knife pulled on you guys. Pretty lame. What year was that?

Anonymous said...

Nobody swam in the pond, unless they fell in or got pushed in. We would occasionally wade in by the damn. That was the cleanest spot, with the water moving as quick as it did. The entire pond was dark and murky back then too, except by the damn and the boat launch, where the sand was.

We waded in at the damn to catch suckers and frogs that nested there. We used home made spears and had a spotter in one of the trees that hung out over the water to direct us to the fish.

The knife incident was in 1963 +/-. We managed to knock one guy down and ran like hell towards Lewis and Clark thru the woods and across Sunrise, jumped a chain-link fence and stayed in the drug store for a long time. Didn't say anything to anyone, it just wasn't done back then...the less your parents (adults) knew the better off you were. Besides they were just trying to scare us, they did a pretty good job of that.

We always seemed to end up down at the pond. We used to throw stones at the muskrats swimming down the middle of the pond to see if we could make them go under water...don't think we ever hit one. But it was lots of fun trying.

I remember the pond being a right of passage. The day you were able to throw a stone clear across to the opposite side you were accepted in the neighborhood cool kids circle. Then you had to do it at least once a day to maintain your standing.

I do know that my time spent at Putman's Puddle and the surrounding woods taught me to appreciate the outdoors. Every where I've been since then has had an outdoors connection to it by choice.

Hell's Acres said...


I never get tired of corresponding with people who hung out at Putnam's Puddle, especially the ones from the earlier days. We did so much fishing down there, despite all the algae. How many times did I take muck off my hook?

At the end of Maebeth we had the "bat tree." We'd wait until it got almost dark and throw rocks at the dead tree, where bats slept, and wake them up. One night we were throwing and watching them fly around when a blue heron flew by and scared the shit out of us. We had never seen one before and thought it was a giant bat!

There is more Putnam's Puddle on this blog, including video of what it looks like now, at http://hellsacres.blogspot.com/2014/01/shitting-to-all-fields-part-5.html. And if you follow the link to the other post, you can read some interesting comments by a guy from your side of the pond: http://hellsacres.blogspot.com/2014/01/shitting-to-all-fields-part-5.html.

Yes, it was a true privilege to live so close to a pond, even if we couldn't swim in it.

Craig Vandermyn said...

Wow, great blog. Yes you could swim in the pond back in the 50's. There was actually a floating dock about 20 yards off the beach on the Sunrise side down the hill across from Maebeth. We would swim out to it, and dive off. It was great! I lived on the corner of Sunrise and Denwall. Me, my two brothers and two sisters grew up down there. Played a lot of hockey and fished a lot. Anyone remember the raft that floated in the pond for years? A couple of the older guys on the Sunrise side built it, and we used it for years. I pretty sure back in the 60's the damn broke and the "older kids" Rich and Ron LaGasse who lived on the corner of Sunrise and Grainger went down there and repaired it with cement, and it lasted another ten years till the big break. Someone mentioned Ricky Bennent, I remember him when he was a young kid that would come to our house (my parents had a double lot) to play football and baseball. I did play hockey with his father on the pond. Seems like yesterday.

Hell's Acres said...

Wow. What I wouldn't give for a photo of people swimming in the pond in the 1950s--or any photo of the pond, for that matter. A guy in the Growing Up in Sixteen Acres Facebook group said somewhere he had film footage of his friends skating on the pond, but I don't think he ever dug it up. I can't believe I never took a picture down there. Readers: we want photos!

The only grainy photo I have in this blog post, a bad one from newspaper microfilm, shows the pond at a low level, and I believe the article said it was because the dam was in bad shape. Makeshift repairs made it last until 1982.

We never knew how deep the pond was in the middle, but I guess it was deep enough to dive off a floating dock. Were there leeches in the pond back then? There certainly were in the 1970s.

When I was a kid I used to deliver newspapers to the Hardinas at the other corner of Sunrise and Catalpa. The house next to it was boarded up the last time I drove by.

Craig Vandermyn said...

Back in the late 50's my mom would take me and my brother down to the beach at the pond and spend the whole afternoon. There were a lot families and kids running around and swimming. Back then, Sunrise Terr. was a dirt road named North Branch Tributary Parkway. They renamed it Sunrise Terr. after they tarred it and a few of the other streets, Denwall, Pineview, Maebeth etc. and put in the storm drains did the pond start to get dirty. Anyone remember the big storm drain down the hill from Maebeth? It was so big, me and Billy Engley would crawl inside it, how dumb were we? I don't remember any leeches back then, a lot of fish, turtles, frogs and muskrats though. I remember the Hardina's! Me an my brother also delivered papers back in the day, all through the streets off of Sunrise and Gateway Village, remember when you could just walk or ride your bike into Gateway Village from the end of Fairlawn St? Wow, so many memories.

Hell's Acres said...

Apparently, from what I hear, the 1955 hurricane/flood did a lot of damage to the dam.

I also heard that Sunrise Terr. was indeed once a terrace with a strip of land in the middle of at least part of it, but I have a hard time picturing where this could have been.

I can't believe you climbed in that pipe! We used to find worms for fishing under rocks in that pipe area.

gigi said...

hello-I just wanted to comment about your blog which I found by accident while I was trying to find out what was there before the Wing Park housing was built on that land. My husband & I were also reminiscing about when our kids were young (the winslow boys) growing up in 16 acres and what a shame it was that Putnams Puddle is no longer viable. Back in the 70's our boys & there friends, the Doyles, harry & betty K, the mccarthys,Bolduc,s brennans, & many others loved it and fished and hung out there along with the adjoining "woods for forts" areas. I found all your info both entertaining and fascinating! I am going to turn all my sons onto your column! thank you!-gigi

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Gigi,

I remember Joe Winslow. Same family? He was a guest of The Pothole a few times lol.

Nancy Thorning Loubier said...

Thanks for this post!! So many memories crossing the damn. I grew up on Denwall Drive. Skated there all the time. Also tobagganed onto the pond from the top of Catalpa. Wow!!! Hiding in the woods and throwing pine cones at cars. 60s and 70s were good times theretimes

Hell's Acres said...

Yes, Nancy, bombing cars was a last resort of boredom, and there was no way a driver could chase you down if you knew the woods enough lol. I love all this Putnam's Puddle nostalgia. Glad I wrote this!

Kevin Jandreau said...

I remember going down to puddle as a kid in the early 60's. I grew up on the corner of Wilbraham Rd and Pineview Dr. Our house was the school bus stop. I would be down thee playing hockey with ther Perno's the Twinings, Jeromes, Jimmy Fleming and so many others. I had forgotten about Jimmy dying out there, a memory that was long buried. I drove by there recently and stopped and went to look. So different from what we used to play hockey on in the winter and play around in the summer. I remember walking those paths and yelling to the kids across the pond. I knew about Wing park as I grew up with the Pidgeon boys. I remember so many funny, and so many sad stories from that area for so many years. Thank you for the write up and your memories

Unknown said...

I crossed that dam walking home from Duggan with my sister. It scared me so badly the drop off was horrible. My dad still lives over there and it is strange to see the pond I ice skated on (and fell through the ice to my knees once) and fished with my sister's in after school completely gone.

mopardude426@ymail.com said...

mon feb 20 2017 steve waltermire here man what a great article the dam also bears my initials and handprint from the repair i helped the lagasses do i beleive it was the last repair done to the dam mr lagasse paid for everthing including our lunch man that place had some big bass snapping turtles i remember getting one to bite the pole he wouldnt let go and i held him up the pole im referring to was the one we used to push the infamous raft i remember one day i was at the puddle rt clearing down from denwall dr my brother johnny dave h we were shooting our bb guns i had just got a used sheridan bluestreak pellet gun and im a good shot anyway someone said bet ya cant hit that chick-a-dee in that pine tree across on the other side of the pond never did i think id hit it ididnt really take aim but hit it and it dropped to its death we never realized that the people takin pictures were from the audobon society and the whole scene was in spfld newspaper as were many of my stupid ideas WALDO SR.

Hell's Acres said...

OK to keep the Puddle comments on 1 post, here are Rabbit's posts:

AnonymousDecember 5, 2013 at 6:27 PM
I hung around on the North Brook side all through the early seventies. We practically lived in the woods next the "Pond" as we called Putnams Puddle back then. Normally we hung around in the woods between Meadowlark Lane and Sparrow Drive. We were the "Moochi" (Mooch-eye) because everyone was always mooching cigarettes, beer and whatever else we could off each other and even the the other neighborhood younger kids. The "Pothole" you refer to was dug by us as a trap for the cops to fall in when they came to hassle us when we would sit around a fire and party down at that end of the pond. The best happened one night when the cops (they always traveled with partners back then) came along their usual routine to roust us out of there, but we were ready with the pit covered with branches and leaves. We hid off to the sides and waited til we heard the clanking of keys and some cuss words as one of the cops fell into the hole! We laughed about that one for a long time. I have tons of memories from my years hanging around the pond. I went to Cat High and graduated in 75. My nickname was Rabbit - I haven't been there in 30 years since I moved to CT - man, those were the good old days!


Hell's AcresDecember 5, 2013 at 7:29 PM
Wow, to think that The Pothole was dug by "Other Siders" for a cop trap! I don't remember which one of us first found The Pothole, but we quickly took it over. What year did you dig it and when did you abandon it?

Hell's Acres said...

More Rabbit:

RabbitDecember 6, 2013 at 4:38 PM
I am thinking we dug the pothole in maybe 70 or 71 in late fall. It was just something we did while hanging out down there until we moved in more officially to the bottom of Sparrow Drive and joined forces with some of the older guys on our side. I never thought much of it after the cop fell in because it wasn't the place to be if the cops are ticked off at you. There was one cop who always seemed to have it in for us, but I can't remember his name.
Here is a good story about one the friction between our side and your side of the pond - we were anticipating you guys to come around to our side and start some trouble with us and our campfire spot. So some of us grabbed about a 12 foot long log, maybe a foot or so in diameter, lashed some ropes to it and tied it up between two trees probably 15 feet up in the air like a big swinging medieval weapon ready to sweep lengthwise directly into the oncoming path in the woods - quite a project, really. Next thing you know someone yells "here they come!", and down comes this big old honking log only to knock a mini bike out from underneath one of our guys younger brother - lucky he didn't get killed!
Does anyone remember the raft that used to be in the pond? I don't know where it came from, but it seemed like it belonged to the pond and whomever wanted to tool around on it could. Just leave the raft poles on it for the next users. With 3 or 4 us on it, it would kind of just barely stay above the surface - it was pretty well water logged.
In the winter we used to do something called "Playing The Hots" down in the swampy end of the pond where the feeder brook came in. It was shallowish (1 - 3 feet deep) water that was only frozen slightly. We would see how far we could travel among the cat tails on 1/2" or less crystal clear ice without falling in, which of course one of us would, and get a leg wet and then it was off to build a fire and dry out grabbing some cat tails to burn while we're at it - those puppies will burn like wild fire when crack them all open.
I also remember Jimmy Flemming passing away down at the dam. We hung out with him from time to time even though he was much older than us. He came home from Vietnam with a drinking problem and had fallen into the pond near the dam that night and couldn't make it up the hill to his house because of the snow and him being all iced up. Very sad. He was good guy that got messed up by the war. That was a tough hill to climb up in the winter, but nobody wanted to walk all the way around since we had to up Pineview and catch the school bus.
I didn't realize how many blogs are on this site til just now. You know, I just kind of bumped into this blog and it has stirred up a lot of old memories of my delinquent youth. I have lots more stories rumbling around in my head. The guy's father who owned the Arco Station at Breckwood Blvd and Wilbraham Rd probably wouldn't appreciate the story about us twisting a coat hanger around the posts on a battery stacked with all the other used batteries at the back of the station and then walking off to Duggan Jr. High to school only to hear a pretty hefty explosion about 5 minutes later...


Hell's AcresDecember 6, 2013 at 6:06 PM
Damn, Rabbt, I always catch your comments after work, when I can't respond at length on the iPhone. Glad you found Hell's Acres. Always wondered who dug that hole.

Heard Fleming was in the Circle Gang. Maybe, maybe not. I remember skating at night at the feeder stream area, the ice cracking under my skates.

Glad to see the animosity between the sides predated our days down there. You're OK for an Other Sider.

Hell's Acres said...

More Rabbit:

Hell's Acres said...
Did your side ever experience that bald Peeping Tom in the early '70s? He used the woods as cover and an escape route when the cops were called. The freak used to steal women's underwear and break into houses. We he'd several experiences with him. Always got away. One fast SOB.

DECEMBER 6, 2013 AT 6:59 PM
Rabbit said...
I don't remember the Peeping Tom incident but there were plenty of midnight garden raids back then. I may have been guilty of liberating a few vegetables myself...
I do recall the annual Fourth of July party that Frank Scibelli would throw every year. It was an event that we all looked forward to, with everyone on the street being invited. It was a catered affair with open bar and free soda for all the kiddies. Towards dusk he would light off tons of fireworks and aim the aerial stuff over the pond from the corner Meadowlark Lane and North Brook Road much to the delight of all us kids. We would scramble for the duds almost as soon as they hitting the ground so we could light them off ourselves the next day. One year I grabbed one of those ladyfinger firecracker packs at the same time as another kid and much to our surprise it went off it our hands at the same time. No hand damage other than stinging fingers but I still get a brief ringing in one ear every once in a while ever since that day. Scibelli was an okay guy to us kids and never gave us a hard time. His wife and kids were very nice people. I even hung out with his son from time to time whe I was a pre-teen. I had been in their house on quite few times and it was decorated in a Mediterranean style - really classy. I remember seeing pictures on the wall of him posing with celebrities such as Milton Berle and the like. I met Ann Corio the burlesque star over there once and got her autograph - I still have it somewhere - I wonder if it has any value? I don't think my mother was too pleased when I came home with that...lol! In my later years our gang, The Moochi would often meet on the other side of the street from Frank Scibelli's until we all gathered and figured where were going for the evening, and he still never gave us a hard time. Archie Poon owned that side of the street and he sure didn't like us hanging out there even though there was a fence and a bunch trees and bushes in between us and his yard. I guess we did look like a bunch of hoodlum hippies hanging out on the corner. That's why we retreated to the woods most of the time until some of us started getting apartments and then we would hang out there if we weren't at the Chimes on Breckwood Blvd. Anyone remember Ray Boston playing there? We must have been his biggest fans. He even played at the wedding of some us! We sure logged lots of hours at the Chimes when we turned 18...
DECEMBER 8, 2013 AT 11:23 AM
Hell's Acres said...
I went to school with Frank Jr. We fought a couple of times in 8th grade, and my dad, a friend of his family, told me to back off lol.

All of our fireworks we purchased originated from Meadowlark Lane.

Garden raids: hard to explain to wife and others. It was an Acres Thing.

Hell's Acres said...

More Rabbit:

Rabbit said...
Did you know that we used to call the boat launch at the end of Meadowlark Lane, "The Chute"? We would always end up saying something like "I'll meet you at the Chute at Six". We caught many a fish sitting on the sewer pipe down at the Chute. Rubber worms were the bait of choice for Largemouth Bass, although you could catch pumpkin seeds on almost a bare hook.
When I was about ten in the later sixties, my friend and I tossed about 50 clay 78's (record albums from the 30's & 40's) that his mother had given us into Putnam's Puddle from the Chute. We sent them flying into the pond like frisbees. Since they are made of clay some are probably buried out there to this very day. I can also recall girls sunbathing down there in the early days before it got all choked up with weeds. Bullfrog hunting at night was also a lot of fun too. In our later years the swampy end of the pond was choked up by a specially planted garden of a different kind of "weeds". By the seventies we had "special gardens" planted in secret locations all over the surrounding woods. It wouldn't be unusual to stumble across someone else's plants. If you were a good "Doobie", you would let the plants be. 'Twas the days of Barny's Hill and Forest Park, you know...

DECEMBER 27, 2013 AT 1:14 PM
Hell's Acres said...
I'll have to be on the lookout down there for 44-year old plants lol. We used to fish off the Meadowlark pipe a lot. There was always something visible just above the surface about 20 yards out from there. We always thought it was a rock. When the dam broke and the water was gone it turned out to be someone's Xmas tree. We didn't see any records. Sadly, there is no path to the chute any more. All overgrown on both the left and right.

DECEMBER 27, 2013 AT 3:26 PM
Hell's Acres said...
Rabbit, unfortunately I found no remaining path on your side when I looked a few years ago, except one behind the dam that goes all the way to the intersection on North Brook Rd. and Sunrise.

Remember the good old days when the path on the Sunrise side went all the way to the feeder brook and beyond, all the way to the Morrow's back yard on the other end of North Brook? That was before they squeezed in a couple of houses on the pond side of Sunrise.

DECEMBER 28, 2013 AT 6:37 AM
Rabbit said...
Too bad about no path around what's left of the pond area. Been around the whole pond on countless occasions, but yes we could never go around the whole thing because of the houses at the swamp end. I saw about Mike Schiavina on your blog. How sad... I used to play cards with him in home room and study halls. We used to catch the bus right near his house.
How about Dr. Brigada? I went to school with his son also. He was my dentist until I left Springfield in the early eighties.
Do you remember a fire plug where North Branch and Sunrise split off? It was on the little island there - until one of our friends took it after a late night - TWICE. Haha, good old Mike could never make that left corner after having one too many. After he hit it the second time, they just never put it back. I see on Google maps its just a spit of an island, it seemed much bigger back then and certainly didn't have a crosswalk. We used to cut up the dirt road down near the bottom of North Brook and Grayson Drive and would come out at the back of what used to be The Gateway Apartments. That was the way to Duggan School, it could be pretty scary in there when you were alone in the dark. I don't see it on Google maps at all. Gosh, we used to hang out at the Packie until someone would buy for us and then go hang out down at the dirt road sometimes. I can't remember what package store was there before the Big Y Packie. I worked there one year - we would sit in the cooler and sample all the different beers when it wasn't busy. Now that's a job with perks!