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Lots of culture can fit in four puddles

Burlington MA town common
Town common in 1957. The black hole is standing water, where the gazebo is now. At the turn of the century, this crater was considered the town pond. By 1957, it had lost that moniker, but obviously it still collected plenty of rainwater.

Town pond — Perhaps you’ve made the mistake of trying to approach the gazebo on the common after heavy rain. Bring a kayak. Water tends to collect there despite the catch basins. Well, if you look around the gazebo, you’ll notice it’s sitting in a perfectly round, shallow, man-made crater, as if the spot were designed to hold water.  This was, in fact, the “town pond.” Snakes and frogs lived here. On Halloween in the 1940s, Burlington hooligans would roll farm equipment from Grand View Farm across Center St. and into the pond. Oh the hilarity.

July 2019. It's still the town pond sometimes.
July 2019. It’s still the town pond sometimes.

The mudhole — Where Terrace Hall Ave crosses Vine Brook on the way to Middlesex Turnpike, the brook collected just enough to form a natural swimming pool. We’re talking really natural, complete with reeds, birds, leeches and a super-squishy mud floor — hence the “mudhole” moniker. Regardless, everyone swam there for the first half of the 20th century. People were tougher then.

The mudhole on Terrace Hall Ave., near the fire substation. Photo Credit: RWF

The skating rink — A half century before the Ice Palace came along, rainwater that cascaded down Sears Street often collected and froze at the north corner of Winn St., where 1 Sears St. stands now. A crew of resourceful guys trapped the water with an oval two-foot wall and created a skating rink, a winter tradition that endured for many years. That corner happened to be a trolley stop, coincidentally, so you could catch a ride to a local sporting event — in a puddle. They even rigged poles and lights for night games.

The YWCA pool — In the 60s and 70s, the quiet Spruce Hill Road neighborhood off Lexington St. often swelled with parked cars as people came to the Frothingham mansion, a YWCA operation at the time, for art or dance lessons, or to swim in the adjacent pool. Theresa Circle covers the pool location now, but the mansion lives on as a private home. This pool wasn’t as rough as the mudhole, but it was still a little rough. Bats sometimes flew from a red barn near the mansion. Robert Fahey Sr., who lived at 3 Spruce Hill Rd. at the time, swatted a bat near the pool using a tennis racket, becoming the neighborhood hero for a day. Longtime neighborhood resident Lars Jennergren remembers the bats too.



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