David Little, b. 1912
Anna Goulding Manion, b. Oct. 17, 1908
Eric Parkman Smith, b. Mar. 23, 1910
Anne Chamberlin Newbury, b. 1911
Elise Loring Kennedy, b. Sept. 22, 1904
David Emerson, b. 1916
Richard Loughlin, Jr.
Edith Bailey, b. 1902
John Marabello, b. 1925
Veronica Stockman, b. 1912
Elmer Joslin (Historical Notes), 86 years old
Laurence Eaton Richardson, 84 years old
Edward Carver Damon
David Little — I was born in 1912 though not in Concord. Mother's family came from Concord and I grew up here and visited Walden Pond quite often. It was in the '20s, not very crowded particularly in the springtime and the late fall. I know lots of birds there and occasional deer and on one very exciting occasion, the loon who came in for a few days, looked at binoculars all the way around the pond for that period and decided to head to New Hampshire or Maine where there weren't so many people.
My memories of Walden have very little to do with Henry Thoreau because I don't think I really understood anything he wrote until I was at least in high school. Then I read Walden and enjoyed it and in later years rereading it every year or so finding more in it that I had not noticed before. My closest experience with Walden had nothing to do with history or literature. It had to do with whooping cough which I picked up on the 19th of April, 1925 so by early May I was in full voice and out of school and mother would take me down to the railroad track side of Walden where the old railroad pavilion used to be and I could whoop away without bothering anybody. I don't think the birds cared for it much but they didn't do anything about it. That's how I learned about the pavilion that was there about 100
years ago built by the Fitchburg division of the Boston & Maine railroad to keep their trains running on weekends. They would run excursion trains out there packed with people and there was a dance hall and swimming and boats to rent and everybody had a very good time. It finally burned down. Someone who is not an admirer of Mr .Thoreau said it was one of those crazy Thoreauvians that did it and I think it was probably a spark from a passing train because that used to burn the woodlands there every few years. It's gone now. You can
see the places where the foundation is.
There is a lovely picture of the Walden pavilion in the collection of the Concord Free Public Library. I saw it in a second hand antique shop/art dealer, they sold everything. I had to persuade some people in Concord to come up with the money to pay for it. What I came up with was the William M. Pritchard Fund which had been set up a hundred years ago and many fine pictures have come into the collection through it, and we sold off the copies of the Italian masterpieces which had been bought as copies before the time that there was a Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Those copies were of little value to us anymore so we sold them and with the funds we bought more pictures putting the William M. Pritchard name on them and also had a number of paintings repaired which had been damaged through the years. So the Pritchard Fund is still a very useful part of the library and we were delighted to be able to get this painting. I would say it was done in the late 1880s. There is no date on it and we don't know who painted it. The artist was not one of the great masters clearly but he knew his ground and he recorded it very well. It's part of Concord's history.
We used to swim where we weren't supposed to on the railroad track side. It was never crowded there, and there wasn't any broken glass in the sand, and we could have our own groups there with picnics and so forth. We did clean up after ourselves, not because the Middlesex County Commissioners told us but because our mothers did and we always listened to them. The punishment was swift and terrible.
The railroad pavilion brought in a great many of out-of-towners on weekends, but during the week and after the pavilion burned down until the automobile became common property, most of the people who came to Walden were local. It was after Henry Ford put a car in everybody's driveway or in front of everybody's hydrant in the city that's when the great crowds began coming to Walden and they did overuse it. I don't think they purposely abused it but hundreds and sometimes over a thousand people there on a hot Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Very few natural areas can stand up to that kind of traffic.
Anna Goulding Manion — I am Anna Goulding Manion born October 17, 1908 and have lived in Concord most all of my life. When I was ten or twelve and later, the neighborhood crowd in Hubbardville used to walk up Fairhaven Road when there was no Route 2 and take a left turn in the woods and follow the path which was like a dirt track over to Walden to the cove. We would cross the railroad track and go to the cove to go swimming. Although I never was a swimmer, I used to just wade and swim with one foot on the bottom of the pond and we used to have a lot of fun at the cove. Later on, of course, people were not allowed to swim there because it was considered dangerous. There was some reason it was thought dangerous, maybe a couple of people had drowned there and they weren't sure why. So I used to go with the crowd even though I couldn't swim. It was just kind of a fun thing for the whole crowd to do. We did that for several years in the summer on good days. We would be picking blueberries in the Fairhaven woods at other times.
When I was in high school, my friend Lois Towne and I used to be driven to Walden Pond at 7:00 in the morning on some days by Lois's sister Marian Towne who was 16 years older than we were. The three of us would be in the pond just by ourselves. They could swim and I made believe I could and we used to have a lot of fun.
Then later after I was married and living again on Fairhaven Road next door to where I was born, our two boys John and Chuck Manion used to either walk over the same route even though we would have to go around Route 2 and walk around Walden quite often. Chuck had a dog Smudge who was a Labrador retriever who we used to take with us and the boys would throw sticks to him and he would go after them and bring them back. Then one day one of the rangers came and said there were to be no dogs in Walden Pond so after that we couldn't take Smudge and he just loved it because they love retrieving. That's the nature of the dogs.
I think the pond was deeded over to the county in about 1922. Then the state took it over from the county later on because they were not handling it very well. I remember Mrs. Hosmer and Dorothea Harrison and several others led the charge for that and since then,of course, Walden has improved. But my younger sisters and young brother all learned to swim at Walden Pond through the Red Cross lessons but I was too old to be involved in them unfortunately. Although I did learn when I was 22.
The Fairhaven-Hubbardville gang used it as part of the neighborhood and they would go together. Mostly girls but I guess the boys used to go too. We had a crowd, Mary Delorey, Betty Hagerty, Mary Hutchinson, the Mullins and I. We weren't aware of who owned it or that it wasn't safe at the cove either. Everybody would go there. It was a nice walk over.
When you go from this end across the railroad tracks, the first thing you come to is really a cove and from there you go to Thoreau Cairn where his hut was and where the pile of stones is and where Roland Robbins found the foundation of it.
When we were walking there in later years, my husband discovered that there was like a cinder track underneath that he could feel. I never knew about it until he discovered it. As far as I know that was gone before I was born. I never heard about the pavilion until I was quite old.
Eric Smith — I am Eric Parkman Smith. I was born actually in Cambridge on March 23, 1910. Approximately thirty days later I arrived in Concord, being moved by my parents into the house in which I now reside. I was educated in schools here in Concord graduating from the Concord High School in 1927. Concord has always been my permanent home base even though at times I have worked at some distance from the town.
My interest in Walden has always been very great and we always called it Walden Pond. I remember as a very small boy I once referred to it as "the lake" and I was severely criticized by my father pointing out that in Concord it was known as Walden Pond and as a Concordian I'd better not forget that and I never have. In this connection I have to tell another little story. I had a neighbor here by the name of Barrett Wood who I believe is represented in this series. Barrett Wood was a devoted Concordian deeply interested in all the history of Concord. He was also a Concord policeman. I encountered this little gem which did not mention Barrett Wood's name but which could have been handled only by him. The New Yorker had a story I believe in the "Talk of the Town" section about a man who came to Concord and stopping at the center of town asked a policeman how to get to Walden Pond. Whereupon the policeman said to him, "I will explain. You're not supposed to make a left turn here but if you do and I'm going to let you, you can go right straight down and this road will take you directly to Walden Pond. The reason I'm authorizing you to make this left turn which is not normally permitted is because you referred to Walden Pond and not to Lake Walden." I always got a chuckle out of that and I knew positively although no names were mentioned that it was Barrett who was responsible for this little incident.
Memories of Walden Pond go way back. I remember father told me a good deal about Walden as he knew it when he was a boy. In passing along on the road next to the pond and when father was a boy the pond was wholly invisible because of the thickness of the trees and the underbrush. In my day that was not the case, you could see something of the beach even in my earliest days when you were down there. But the situation, of course, has increasingly changed. As small boys we used to explore the neighborhood on our bicycles when I suppose we were probably ten or twelve years of age and then we would wander into the woods. One of the places where we wondered was the woods across the railroad track from Walden Pond and here we discovered straight wooden structures which appeared to be somewhat dilapidated swings and rides, possibly merry-go-rounds and presently we discovered a cinder track. On inquiring from my father I learned that these were the remains of a sort of amusement park and that Walden was something like the Revere Beach of Boston in those early days. The cinder track was used for foot races according to father's recollection although not for horse races or anything of that sort. In later years, of course, in my youth it was used for horses as people who were giving instruction in riding would take their pupils out there and ride them around and around the cinder track where they could control what they were doing and see how well they were learning to post and so forth as they trotted along. There was a railroad station there on the side of the track towards the pond and there was in my early days a considerable remains of a blacktop platform although all traces of the building had long since disappeared. Sometime later the railroad lowered the grade and in so doing they dug away and destroyed some portion of the blacktop platform. The last time I checked it there was still a little bit of blacktop there but about that time also, and that was sometime after the 1938 hurricane, I went looking across the track at some remains of the swings and rides which I remembered and at that time nothing was visible. The combination of the forces of the winds plus I guess the action of the bugs and other creatures which cause wood to disintegrate over time had completely destroyed everything. These reminiscences are a little bit erratic and not entirely consistent but I want to try to say things that I remember as being of interest.
Father also remembered that there was a steamboat on the pond. Only, of course, as he said it was not a steamboat. It was a little paddlewheel boat with a couple of men inside who worked very hard to turn the paddles and move about the surface of the pond at a modest rate. In my earliest days in the cove on the Concord side of the pond next to the track, there used to be piles which apparently were the remains of the long gone wharf.
My first personal contacts with Walden from the point of view of swimming came when I was a small child I was taken down there to go bathing before I knew how to swim. We usually went to a place that was then known as "the point." The point is the point of land where Thoreau's cove enters the main body of the pond. The water here if you go into the pond goes off fairly deeply but if you walk out diagonally across the mouth of the cove tending to veer a little bit towards the pond, you can walk on the surface of a bar where the declivity is very slight and one can proceed probably two-thirds of the way across the mouth of the cove before the water gets up to the level of your nostrils and you have to start swimming instead of walking. On the other hand, if you walk in from the top of that bar into the cove, the water becomes deeper very very rapidly and I'm afraid there have been a number of drownings there from people who were not aware of this, but as a small boy we always used to like to walk in there and see if we could find the bottom of that sharp declivity of the bar on the cove side. Although we really got down so that we really got pretty well out of breath and came to the surface puffing, we never did get to the bottom there.
At times there would be a somewhat make shift raft with a diving board there but there was nothing very formal. It was however a very pleasant place to swim and I remember on one occasion probably when I was in my early teens, I went in and was inspired to swim across the pond. This I did and then planned to walk back since after all it was further than I had often swum and I wasn't too sure if it was a smart idea to swim back. But then considering the fact that in those days there was no park around the pond and after considering what it would mean to bushwhack through the underbrush all around the coves and pond and finally get back to where my clothes were left in the bushes up above of the point, I decided it would be a good deal easier to swim back, which I did.
The people at the point from when I first knew were Concord people. Some of them were in high school with me and others were some of my neighbors who were both younger and older than I. On the other hand there were numbers of people from the cities which we presumed to be Waltham and Watertown. Most of these people were somewhat bigger than we were and we were somewhat overawed and felt a little bit threatened by them so it was not as pleasant for us to swim when we were outnumbered if you will by older people whose backgrounds appeared to be somewhat different from the more mild and gentle people who came from Concord. I may say the approach in those years to the pond was always by bicycle and this was great fun and I remember particularly what a pleasure it was to coast down Brister's Hill on the way home and we would all compete to see who could coast for the longest distance towards the center of town. In those days, on each side of Thoreau Street there were maple trees which had been planted when the road was paved so as to make it a sort of an attractive avenue leading from the village out towards Brister's Hill. Actually those maple trees have been mostly cut down now because the road had to be widened as nobody then envisioned the extent to which traffic would increase and roads would have to be made broader and better graded.
Anne Chamberlin Newbury — I am Anne Chamberlin Newbury and I was born in Concord on Lowell Road in 1911 and I am still living on Lowell Road in Concord in 1987.
As a child we knew Concord very well and one of our great events was to go swimming in Walden Pond. My father had an old Hupmobile and he could pile fourteen or so of us children in his car and he would drive us down in the afternoon to what we called "the point." We went through the woods to get there and parked the car on a high bluff above the pond. We would jump out of the car and run down the bluff and dive right into the water because it was quite deep right there. We would swim for hours often swimming across the pond to the railroad tracks and back. I don't believe there was a beach over there. I think we would just swim over and then swim back which must have been a half of mile swim; it was a long swim anyway. We had so many wonderful times down there.
Sometimes coming home my father would take us to Walden Breezes on Walden Street which was an ice cream place and treat us all on the way home. They were wonderful times and we went just as often as we could persuade him to take us. It was great fun. It wasn't crowded. Occasionally we would see somebody across the pond at the beach but not many people. It was a pond in the wilderness.
I think I'm referring to the late teens. I don't believe I could have swum across the pond and back until I was twelve or so anyway so that would be in the '20s even. In our swimsuits, we were pretty well covered with high necks and they were sleeveless. We didn't wear stockings but it was in the late '20s when bathing suits started to expose more starting with the back mostly. I think our bathing suits were made of a black serge and it would sometimes be rather itchy as it was drying when we came out from swimming. We knew everybody that used the pond. It was just Concord people. There were never crowds there. It was quite a trip really to get down there at 10 miles an hour or so.
Elsie Loring Kennedy — I was born September 22, 1904 out on Barrett's Mill Road at the foot of Annursnac hill near the old Wright farm, one of many Lorings. From there on I have done various and sundry things in Concord and have been active in many fields.
My first recollections of Walden because transportation was not as easy then as it is today was to go down usually, I hate to say, but we did ride double down to Walden on our bicycles after high school. At that time the only dressing rooms and buildings were two little wooden enclosures with no roof, just a floor and four walls and probably facilities somewhere up the hill. It was quite a treat to get down as we did after school and have a swim.
Gradually as we did get better in our swimming it was nothing, even though not safety approved, to swim over to "the point" and to the cove as sort of a test of our strengths as we would like to do which was really sort of fun.
I think perhaps my next really outstanding memory of association with Walden started in 1925. I had just graduated from physical education school and Mary Pratt, who was very active in the Red Cross chapter asked me if I would help her. She said, "We're starting a project this summer, Elsie." Knowing my interest in swimming and outdoor activities as I already had a Girl Scout troop, she asked me if I would be willing to help out. The result was the Concord chapter brought a man from Washington headquarters up to show how to run a Red Cross swimming program. I think Concord has probably been one of the oldest and perhaps one of the most active programs in the country.
We started first at White Pond. We probably had about 50 children our first year. At that time, the person that I remember helping teach the swimming under the coaching of this man from Washington was Mary Williams of the Martin Williams family. Of course, all of us kids at that time used to go over and swim at White Pond. We would hike along the New York-New Haven Railroad tracks if there was no horse and team available. This was in 1925 and by that time we did have some automobile transportation. Well, we operated two years at White Pond and then the program enlarged to the point where we decided it was best to go to Walden.
At that time Concord Red Cross chapter included Lincoln and Carlisle. I don't really know or I'm not quite sure but eventually Bedford and Acton did come in. It grew to be a very very large program. Fred Hart was superintendent of Walden.It had just begun to be better known and developed so we used to have our classes in the morning just in the morning down at the beach where normally people would go. As I recall it, it was one year when I was chairman of the program that they built that big cement pier which seemed to be, well perhaps not quite the place for it. However it was constructed during those active years.
The people I remember working in the program at that time, sometimes I taught and sometimes I was chairman. The Red Cross chairmen do not get paid but the teachers do. We had probably up to about 500 youngsters in the program at the time. Of course we would apply through the Concord schools and our school nurse was very helpful in having us have little children come down who perhaps might find it difficult for the family to pay the 506 registration fee. We all thoroughly enjoyed those classes. They were great fun. One outstanding teacher who was very good in teaching strokes was Martha Wilson who had four boys of her own. She was very good and a very dear friend of mine. I remember Martha so very well and the years that she helped. Jane Servais was another one who came down and did a lot of work for us, Freda Chittin whose husband was principal of the school in West Concord, Doris Boyd, the Boyd name is familiar here in Concord, she was a neighbor of ours and of course, Patti Hosmer MacPherson. As I recall way back in the very beginning, I would be teaching a class in the water maybe 8 or 10 children around me and I would feel a bump on the back of my knees, I'd open my knees and through would come Patti. We used to entertain ourselves by having Patti climb the tower that was at one time out there on the dock. She was probably about somewhere between four and six years old. Then years later Patti helped out as her mother was always very active in our Red Cross work. We had such a great time.
I remember the year that Bedford came in. One of the families in Bedford entertained the whole volunteer teaching group at a wonderful picnic down at the back of the their property which bordered on the Concord river. We had so many good times in that way. I remember when Harold Orendorff, whom quite a few people around Concord would remember, was the treasurer of the chapter. Of course, Mary was carrying on vigorously as our head person for many years. After my time the program became to be so large at Walden that they purchased docks and put them in over to the right of the beach where they operated for many years. Concord did buy their own docks.
The Red Cross policy as I understood at the time had always been to see a need in the community and get it established and then have the community take it over. For instance, the visiting nurse program that we have now that operate out of Emerson Hospital at one time started as the Red Cross nurses.
About in the '50s a change seemed to be necessary to have our Red Cross swimming program turned over to the community. As I recall I was suggested to be on the recreation commission at the time we made the change because of my years of activity in the swimming program. So the program was changed to them and of course, for many years now has been run under the recreation program of Concord.
Many happy times for all of us in my memories. I think so many times and go back and remember the wonderful times we had at Walden. It is unfortunate now that we have the pressures of the population. I have been asked to sign the no swimming at Walden by the Save the Walden group or the Walden Forever Wild group. I can't in good conscious really sign it to keep people from swimming in Walden Pond. I do wish that some measures could be taken that might control the number of people attending at one time. My memories of Walden are certainly some of the happiest of my life and I certainly enjoyed it.
The pond was certainly well used by Concord people. Many of us who could bicycle would go down. Of course I came from West Concord and if we decided if Warner's Pond wasn't to our liking which was where most of us learned to swim, we would have to walk so we would hike over to White Pond. It was much easier to walk to White Pond than Walden. But from high school on we would go down on our bicycles to Walden. And then later on as older teenagers and young adults we would certainly drive down. Quite often we would go to "the point" even then because we liked the swimming over there and it was always much quieter.
I don't think I was aware of too many other people coming to Walden. I do recall one rather happy experience when we were in high school a sudden rain storm came up and a group of black people from the city were having a picnic under a big awning by their truck and they invited us to come in. I do remember that very pleasant episode, but I don't recall that the pressures were that great at that time. I recall more about the pressures that came into White Pond when my father-in-law and my husband were asked to take part with some of the surrounding neighbors and some of those interested to form the White Pond Associates because of the abuse the pond was receiving from the out-of-towners that were not really as careful as they might have been.
I did have one particular little pupil who always recalled the fact that I wore the Jantzen bathing suit with the little red diving girl on the side. The result was his family had inherited one of those which I wore in the 350th parade as the first Red Cross swimming teacher in Concord.
One of the pleasant outstanding memories of having taught so many Concord children, I do see many around as adults and of course now as much older adults. One in particular perhaps because he was so tiny and such an attractive five year old is David Anderson. I look at him now at his height and I think do I remember you in my swimming class? Another person I remember distinctly is Ed McCaffrey. And, of course, all the Damons I remember. Margaret Damon was I think one of my outstanding pupils. At four she was absolutely fantastic perhaps a little more advanced than her older brothers were. Leonard Wetherbee's wife, I'm not quite sure what her maiden name was but I remember her distinctly. Oh, many faces, it is a delight to see now as I recall my happy days with them.
David Emerson — 1061 Monument Street, born 1916. Here on this glorious summer day of August 15, 1987, I don't see Walden overcrowded. It seems to be used overwhelmingly for swimming, there are a few canoes around. The paths are well marked, the signage is good and the parking lot is well administered. When the parking lot is full that is largely self regulatory in keeping the crowds down. Efforts are being made to prevent erosion of the main beach along the shoreline and the snow fences are very effective. Swimming and passive recreation were the intention when my family turned over the land to the state. I don't think using Walden for swimming is turning it into a Coney Island at all.
These are the best dates I can offer for the sequence of events. In 1844 the 144 acres which includes Walden was purchased from the town by my great-grandfather Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Fitchburg Railroad. The following year Henry David Thoreau built his cabin there. In 1890 the amusement pavilions were established by the railroad which brought many people out on excursions because of the convenience of the railroad stop.
In 1922 my grandfather Edward deeded the land that he inherited from his father to the Commonwealth with the provision that it be used for such purposes as swimming and picnicking. The Walden State Reservation did a study of the land which was turned over to the County Commissioners for supervision. When my grandfather Edward died in 1930, my father Raymond consolidated. Edward's share and his sister Edith Forbe's share which totaled approximately 50 acres which covered the south side of the pond including the bluffs, and in 1956 turned it over to State Senator James DeNormandie of Lincoln whom he respected. I had come back to town at this time and I remember the County Commissioners had begun mismanaging the property. In 1965 Walden became a National Historic Landmark and in 1973 the Walden Advisory Committee did a restoration study, but had no money to back it up. The state took control in 1975 and in 1979 barricades and sound barriers went up along Route 126 and a parking lot was developed on the other side of the road.
I don't think there is a better swimming place for people in the area. It is no good to turn back the clock. No it is not Coney Island, nor are people trying to put up amusement booths. With the effort at policing the crowds, the effectiveness of the mounted patrol and limited parking, the state can keep things under control.
Richard Loughlin Jr. — Chairman Board of Selectmen 8/17/87. The state faces a balancing act between the recreation and conservation factions at Walden, both have strong commitments to its resources. Walden Pond has had a longtime association with town recreation, including its ongoing use for swimming lessons through the Recreation Department. When we look for helpful solutions, it is for a great natural resource that was set up with a recreation purpose in mind and we have to remember that Walden is frequented by Concord people when we talk about restricting its use. Last spring the Selectmen took a tour of the pond on a Wednesday afternoon and we came across quite a number of familiar faces, which was a good eye-opener for us.
The state has studied other sites, including ponds in Carlisle and Holliston in an effort to find an alternative to Walden. To limit the crowds, the state has closed down parking areas to limit access to 300 cars or 1,000 people. But this has forced cars into residential areas like Sudbury Road, Walden Street and Thoreau Street. Last spring the town agreed to cooperate with the state's request by closing off the high school to parking this summer until September 10 and supervise it with personnel. There are "no parking signs" for Brister's Hill Road. The reduced parking at the pond then becomes a problem for Selectmen when people have traveled a ways to come here to swim, they are not going to give up easily.
Edith Bailey — born in Concord in 1902. Our Sunday School classes would take the streetcar to Thoreau Street and then hike down to Walden for our picnics. There was a hot dog stand at the beach run by Fred Hart, but in general Walden wasn't a developed area. Nor was there much emphasis put on Henry David Thoreau as today. My mother would tell me of the big picnic grounds, including an 1892 picnic of Chinese people, the trains on the sidings and the drownings.
John Marabello — born in Concord in 1925. I used to chauffeur for Edith Sellors, the niece of Fay Heywood who was head of the Concord National Bank and once owned a portion of the Walden Pond property. The intent when it was deeded over to the county was for it to stay as a picnic and bathing area. It bothers me that people are trying to change that.
I have a copy of the deed dated June 9, 1922 when the parcels of land owned by C. Fay Heywood, the widow of George Heywood, Eliza Heywood, the widow Edith Sellors, Edith Emerson Forbes, Annie Emerson, and Raymond Emerson were turned over to Middlesex County. The deed states that, "...no part of the premises shall be used for games, athletic contests, racing, baseball, football, motion pictures, dancing, camping, hunting, trapping, shooting, making fires in the open, shows and other amusements, such as are often maintained
at or near Revere Beach and other similar resorts, it being the sole and exclusive purpose of this conveyance to aid the Commonwealth in preserving the Walden of Emerson and Thoreau, its shores and nearby woodlands for the public who wish to enjoy the Pond, the woods and nature, including bathing, boating, fishing, and picnicking. And subject further to the restriction and condition that no part of the premises shall be placed under the control of the Metropolitan District Commission or become a part of the Metropolitan District..."
The deed encouraged those living outside the area to make Lake Walden their backyard but the provisions and intent of the deed has been violated. The area for swimming has been reduced, places for parking have been grassed over and parking charges imposed. When I was a kid you could swim anywhere, there was no roped off area. Concord people would use Walden and swim where the point or cove is and to the old railroad track opening where the former dance hall used to be. Those who come now from other towns to escape the sweltering heat are shooed away, their cars are ticketed - this is a real disappointment.
There was a popular restaurant called the Golden Pheasant located close to the dump entrance before Walden Breezes, and served wine, beer and basic food. It was there when I was a kid and till World War II, and was Concord's only hangout.
Veronica Stockman — Walden Breezes, born 1912, interviewed 8/3/87. Walden Breezes has been my home for the past 30 years, 18 years in another part of the trailer camp and the last twelve right here. My husband died six years ago and when my children asked if I wanted to move, I told them I'd like to stay right here, that this is my home. I'm turning 75 tomorrow and the woman called from the Trinitarian Church about baking a cake for my birthday. I also go to the Peter Bulkeley building for the lunch they have for senior citizens. Those of us living at the trailer park are Concord residents and voters.
There used to be as many as 80 trailers here, now there are about two dozen left. Nobody can move into the park anymore since the state took it over, but those already here can stay for life. When the state decided to do away with the trailer camp, some of the people got scared that they'd be thrown off and moved out. Many of us are old and not in good health. When someone dies they take the trailer away and only the slab that you see remains, (pointing to where a trailer used to be alongside hers).
It used to be different though, we used to get together and have fun picnics and parties. It never was a place for children, only one family that I remember had any children and when they were school age they moved away. There was a rule against having pets, though now some have cats, there are a lot of stray cats around anyway. I hope nothing happens that those of us left can't stay.
Elmer Joslin — (Historical Notes), age 86, interviewed 9/28/77. Our swimming at Lake Walden was at what we used to call "the beach", which is now where the public bathhouses are. With the advent of tourists and the devastation the gypsy moths caused to the foliage on the trees, we had to move our swimming spot to South Point. There we built a pier at the end of which the water was about 18 feet deep. Of course, this was after the time the picnic grounds had been given up.
The picnic grounds included a dance hall and a railroad station and was at the opposite end of the lake from the beach along the railroad tracks. They had bathhouses constructed over the water so that the people went into the bathhouse to enter the water. There was a ladies bathhouse and a men's bathhouse. This recreation area was used until forest fires destroyed the railroad station and the dance hall, and gradually the picnic grounds were given up. Huge crowds used to come out from Boston on special trains to spend the day at Walden. There was a refreshment stand but people had to bring their own liquor.
And of course, there were some drownings, and there were several instances where they didn't find the body of the drowned person. One of the guns from the Independent Battery would be taken to the water's edge and they would fire several charges. As I understand
it, this blast would jolt the body to float to the surface. I remember distinctly seeing that done two or three different times. I was only about 10 or 12 years old when the picnic grounds were given up but I do remember that.
There was also a race track on the other side of the railroad tracks from the lake. As I remember, it was a bicycle track.
Laurence Eaton Richardson — age 84, interviewed 1/19/78. Thoreau was a street, a cove of Walden Pond and a famous nature writer. There must have been few in the town who thought of him as a political, economic or philosophical thinker. Generally, I think the grandparents who knew him hoped that their grandchildren would not grow up to be like him, and although "Walden", the "Week" and the others were read with interest it was because we were swimming in Walden and canoeing and camping on the river.
When the river was too low and warm to be refreshing we went to Walden. Sandy Beach, near the road, required bathing suits, but Thoreau's Cove and Sam Hoar's point nearby were free country and all you needed was a bicycle to spend a happy day there. The south end of Walden near the railroad was still a summer picnic ground for Boston groups. It started as a place for social meetings of Sunday Schools, church festivals, temperance meetings, spiritualistic encampments etc. There was a railroad station and the grounds were furnished with seats, swings, dining hall, dance hall, bath houses, boats and fields for sports. The race track is still indicated in the woods south of the railroad. By 1900 however, the place was less popular. However, the paper reports "Tuesday there was a picnic at Walden at which the members of six colored churches were present. It is said that the grounds were literally black with people." The Chinese had a big outing there too that year, all dressed in native costumes which certainly astonished one Concordian who came upon a group of them wandering through the woods near Fairhaven Bay.
Edward Carver Damon — textile mill owner and community leader. "Had a fine moonlight row on Walden - just a dozen of us - delightful evening." [From his 1870 diary]
While demanding a long workday from his employees and putting in the same himself, Damon shows flexibility on occasion in letting workers off early for local events such as the circus, the cattle show and in this August 1873 diary entry to Walden because "the operatives wished to go to the Walden Pond Band Picnic."
The unlicensed sale of liquor was a community problem a century ago and Town Meeting and the selectmen annually wrestled with the struggle between prohibition and anti prohibition forces. Louisa May Alcott was a strong proponent of temperance and succeeded in organizing a militant local Women's Christian Temperance Union that showed their influence at Town Meetings on whether licenses for the sale of liquor should be issued. Walden Pond was a gathering place for prohibition rallies and clashes with the opposing forces were inevitable and sometimes violent consequences.
Advocates of prohibition had a rally at Walden on July 4, 1879 at which 5,000 people gathered to hear the oratory of Henry Ward Beecher and others. Walden readily attracted those from outside the Concord community, with the convenience of the stop on the railroad line and the attraction of the amusement pavilion in addition to bathing and picnics. Sometimes the crowds were rowdy and drunk. One 1881 news account related that drunken groups from Walden had invaded the village and the prison a large cache of beer was discovered and seized.