Wednesday, November 23, 2011

 

Anniversary of a Disaster

 A terrible disaster took place on November 28th, 1942 in Boston, MA. The top nightclub in the city, the Cocoanut Grove, experienced a flash fire in the basement's Melody Lounge, that spread up into the main floor. When it was over, nearly five hundred people died and many more were injured.  As bad as it was, it could have been worse.

The 1942 Boston College football team was first in the nation, a powerhouse. That afternoon they played their local rival, Holy Cross, a weak team. An end of season party had already been planned at the Grove, but Holy Cross stunned BC and the party was cancelled. That kept many more people from crowding the already over crowded club.

The fire may have been caused when a busboy tried to replace a lightbulb in a dim area. He lit a match to help see what he was doing, replaced the light and blew out the match, but the damage was done. The smoke and fire appeared shortly after.

A famous movie actor of the day, western star Buck Jones, died in the fire. To me. the most tragic case was a survivor. Coastguardsman Cliff Johnson spent twenty-one months in the hospital, undergoing numerous operations and skin grafts. His treatment was experimental for its time but it worked. He eventually married his nurse and went back home to Missouri. Unfortunately, he died ironically in an auto fire after a crash fourteen years later.

The Grove fire led to reforms in fire codes nation wide, such as the need to have a conventional door next to a revolving door (which was the main entry and exit at the Grove and jammed up with bodies). So, something good came out of the fire, but at a great price.

Holidays are sometimes accompanied by tragedy. As you enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration, be grateful if yours remains without one.




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