We lived at 24 Edward Street until early spring 1942 when we moved to 117 Alexander Ave. I believe my first time on the ice, possibly with double runners was skating with my sister and her friends on the Duck Pond, Waverly Oaks. It was small but cute. We also skated on the Underwood Pool, avoiding the cement walls and island to save our edges.
There were plenty of used cheap skates around since they were a very common Christmas or birthday gift in Massachusetts. Sticks were a different story.
I'm quite sure I didn't have a hardware store hockey stick until the winter of '42-43, when I was 10 years old. From our upstairs windows we could see over the RR tracks to the field the town flooded across the brook from the Underwood pool. The town sometimes sprayed the surface at night for better skating. It was too wide to simulate a regulation rink, no boards, cement foundation on the brook and west side, grass bottomed, sloping bank on the east end. A street light or two enabled us to play late at the east end.
picture of the rink in later years found via google images, at www.town.belmont.ma.us/.../BelmontMA_Pics/, although I can't find the graphic on the source site.
If we could see moving skaters, over we went, across the tracks, carrying sticks and skates. That first hockey bunch included the Regan twins, Richard and Frank, Bert Vail, Richie Nestor, Paul O'Brien, Owen Cote, my brother, me, Paul Brown who lived on Winn Street and others I should recall.
A story my brother and I have enjoyed relating is of Paul "Zonk" Brown who would walk from Winn Street with his skates on, across the tracks or under the tunnel to the Underwood field rink. Granted there was some snow and ice on the ground but any 'hint of an edge' was lost on his skates.
Which reminds me of my fetish for sharp skates. I took off the rough edges myself with a stone and would have a shoe store in Belmont Centre put the edges back. Later I would drive to Zwicker's in Arlington on Mill Street. Frank Bennett, BHS coach, also sharpened skates in his cellar. I also found some trainer guy in the catacombs of the old Boston Arena to put on an edge. All these folks knew about hollow ground and rockering.
March 2004 John Hutchinson wrote this re Zwickers; "I remember Homer Zwicker well. He was a big, gentle and jovial man with large and grimy hands who seemed to know EVERYTHING about hockey. While in Arlington they did the Bruins' skates and anyone else's who wanted a first-rate job done on his blades. Their store was off a side street in a gully, with lawn mowers parked out front. Very unassuming spot."
We got tired of using overshoes and bags for goals and from somewhere appeared some crude goals we set up at either end and we would play for hours. "Zonk" got his nickname from the sound of the puck hitting the goal behind him. His other knickname was "Red Light Brown". His pads were Saturday Evening Posts, wrapped and tied around his legs. He was BHS class of '49, extremely good natured, considered our hockey as just plain fun.
Since the site was very popular for general skating we had to get there early and sometimes clear the ice in order to have our hockey area. Sometimes there were two hockey areas. Sticks were banned on the Underwood pool. The hockey we played was closer to shinny, too many on a team, not very fast, but a lot of practice carrying the puck in a crowd and driving in on the goal. usually a pair of shoes. There was no such thing as a slap shot and a sure way to be unpopular was to shoot the puck deep into the snow so we had to find another one. Now I realize that's where we developed "saucer passes", a low lift with the puck so it would clear the snow.
One or more times the Clearys, Billy and Bob would come out from Cambridge and play with us. They even had uniforms, real "big time" back then. That was the first time I witnessed Billy's ambidextrous stick handling.
Since I walked past the site going to school and church I was ready one spring when it drained nearly dry to rake up about 35 pucks from the field grass. I was 'puck supply' for years after that. We kids hunted 'high and low' for skates and sticks in 1940 and through the war. I started on 1920's era that looked like old goalie skates, leftover from my father or an uncle. The shoes were almost 'figure' skates. I skated on them for about three years, constantly having local shoe shops put back eyelets and restitch the upper boot. They had a hard toe, a wide blade and offered so little support I added lace up ankle supports. The fact they offered very little support apparently benefited my skating. I had strong ankles and skated better than a lot of kids my first few times out. Later in coaching I noted some kids would do the same thing, 'just take off'.
Little Spy Pond, Belmont, Big Spy Pond, Arlington.
It was a couple of years before a neighbor who played for the Boston Jr. Olympics sold me his CCM Tacks for $5. They were rockered and fit snugly on one pair of thin socks. I really took off on those and the neighbor, Jimmy Nestor, gave me special tutoring in power strides, 'skating from the hips', he called it, using full leg forward thrust. On some days he and I would 'power skate' on the pond when the others had gone home after a day of hockey. He told me late one sunday that I was hardly using my left leg for power. We figured out later I was saving it without thinking because I had hurt the thigh muscle in a bike accident. Jimmy was a very unusual hockey product of the Belmont, Arlington, Cambridge area. His style was more akin to an excitable French Canadian, shouting for plays, breaking in with blinding speed, backchecking not 'too gently', broke a lot of sticks, even on the pond, great passer, a little 'hard' but you were supposed to be ready. We spent hours on Little Spy breaking down the ice, passing back and forth.
When I told Jimmy I declined to play for Belmont High in my senior year he advised me how to get into scrimmages at the Boston Arena. He advised me on proper Boston Arena "rink ratting", who to avoid, who counted, where to hide in the hallways, etc. so I could get on the ice as a relief line when faster players took a break. We would hear that BC had a practice but not many players were expected to show, so after a long warmup someone would choose sides for a scrimmage. Not able to trust my '37 Chevie battery, I used to park it in the upper level of the garage on St. Botolph Street so I could coast and catch it in gear. When I poured it on with both legs pushing I was able to keep up with the pickup games at the Arena.
By patiently watching teams come out for practice time I could see there were often shortages of players. As Jimmy had said, just go into the warmup and when they choose sides, they will put you on a team. I recall only once watching Jimmy in a scrimmage. Broke his stick along the boards as usual. The ice hours had been reserved and paid for by colleges, the Olympics, Jr Olympics, the Bruins and probably some high schools. The trick was to always be ready to go on the ice, judiciously stay out of sight when they were resurfacing but get on the ice for each new session and judge whether to stay on or not. I was never told to get off the ice. I used my own judgement. A few times I was not chosen for the scrimmage but I'd wait on the bench for a player to quit. I recall skating wing on lines that were ahead of me in the game but I managed to never be offside and dig out a few pucks to pass to my linemates. It was at the least top college level hockey and nearly everyone was older than me. Gradually some "quite professional" looking players came out but we were passing the puck around in warmup so I had my hopes that I could get in again as a relief line. The Bruins backup goalie came out. Then a very familiar face, Milt Schmidt, in full gear, skated onto the ice, recuperating from a cut achilles tendon. I figured I was getting way over my head, sat down and watched.
Jimmy told me about going to play for the Muncie Chiefs. I see via the Hockdb.com (/www.hockeydb.com/stte/munsee-chiefs-6996.html) the following: Munsee Chiefs, (Muncie,IN), Ohio State Hockey League, Senior Amateur 1947-1948 w three from Massachusetts and two from Rhode Island. Nearly the same roster became the Muncie Flyers in '48-'49 of the International Hockey League.
I clearly recall Jimmy being a winner in our "how much can you make" shoveling snow after big storms. I forget who was with him but they ranged over Belmont on foot digging out driveways.
In February 1953 Jimmy picked me up at a bus stop on Concord Avenue and after I told him I had dropped out of Harvard and was waiting till April to enlist in the Army Security Agency, he suggested I go along with him and his partner, Gus, in selling aluminum combination windows, primarily for Stetson Windows on Concord Avenue at I think Bright Rd. We did cold calling, not always together, in Somerville and points north, Everett and further. I can only remember Somerville clearly but I think we went as far as Lynn. We didn't "oversell" so gradually we worked out a "pitch" based on which of us the prospect seemed to trust more. Jimmy would give the main pitch. Gus usually worked alone since all three of us was clearly too intimidating. I recall a woman prospect saying she trusted my eyes, so working that in we started getting more sales. I recall one commission check of around $100. We would gather for lunch or coffee and Gus would entertain with his selling tales.
Insert: NESTOR, James J. Jr. Of North Andover, formerly of Belmont, December 7, 2009. Husband of Shirley (Gorman) Nestor, father of Barry Nestor and his wife Karen (O'Riordan) and Nancy C. Nestor. Beloved grandfather of Jason and his wife Stacy (Verhelle), Ryan and Katherine Nestor. Brother of Mary E. Nestor and Richard C. Nestor of Belmont. Memorial Service Friday, December 11th in Conte Funeral Home, 17 Third Street, NORTH ANDOVER, MA. 01845.
I recall the euphoric sensations of walking home in the 5 pm darkness, past house lights, brighter, more cheerful at Christmas time. It was a bit over half a mile to our house but there were no direct connecting streets from Little Spy so at where Statler Road ended at the point it later joined Channing, we had the option of walking along the RR tracks, directly across the open field or along the raised dirt embankment which would become the extension of Dean Street to Statler. It had town sewer 'manholes' in it and was closed to traffic. The 'really long way' around was via Cross Street. The walk from Big Spy was closer to a mile along Cross and Lake Streets.
As a kid I had such an inner drive to skate fast and learn maneuvers that I neglected stickwork for many years. I developed a good shot by setting up a board at the back of the large single car garage under our house and shooting at the holes I had cut out on around the edges of the board. I got the idea from a book from the Belmont library, probably the one by Eddie Jeremiah and Wesley Goding, a copy of which I bought later when I was coaching kids. I think I waxed the cement floor so the regulation pucks would not stick after trying some surfaces such as linoleum.
Another reason for neglecting stick work was my focus on passing. When I 'played up' there was always someone with much greater skills to whom I would maneuver to pass the puck. I can recall on Little Spy sliding passes across to Skippy Viglirolo and others then busting in on the net in time to take a short pass or tip in a sliding puck.
Many years later in adult hockey in California some of we 'pond' players proved we had learned some 'in close to the net' skills in those early days, flipping the puck past goalies from close in which others couldn't get themselves to do since they were conditioned to 'shoot hard' from 15 feet out, happy to hear at least the puck bang the backboards.
All 'organization' was by ourselves and usually close within age range. Fran Regan was a key organizer, making phone calls to get 'the group' there at the same time.
The 'swamp rats' who lived south of the Winn Brook also played on some flooded low land and excavations within a 'house lot' of the RR embankment between the intersection of Channing and Alexander, east to Brighton St. Those games were quite slow due to reeds sticking up through the ice, rather treacherous to step on. It was however where we 'worked out' more puck control and short passing, since the patches of ice 'were ours' by invitation and crowding was not a concern. These flooded areas were safe for skating before Little Spy. You had to become very adept at judging the safety of ice. Up and down undulating of the surface and cracking were tolerated until we decided to leave.
Equipment was a major concern since the only money any of us had was from doing odd jobs, cutting lawns, shoveling snow, etc. We would pick up broken sticks at the Underwood area or anywhere else and glue and screw the blades back on. Some of the older boys like Jimmy Nestor would give us their broken sticks. These 'clubs' were good for backup and street hockey which we played under the street light in front of our houses for hours. Street hockey was usually played on one's own street and neighbor kids would play who very rarely showed up for ice hockey. I had some extra sticks to loan them. I varnished them to cover and protect repairs. Another trick to get a stick to last longer after it started to fray was to varnish the heel, tape it and varnish over the tape. The tape was sticky friction tape, the other 'slick' kind not yet being available.
For padding a lot of us cut foam pads and put them in the pockets of our trousers. We organized all our scrimmage games, often stopping a game to even up or weed out the sides. A 6 on 6 game would grow to 10 on 11 until it was stopped. The group then divided by some older guys who would 'take charge' and a second game started.
On Big Spy Pond, Arlington the 'proficiency level' also was taken into account in dividing into games or 'groups'. On some ideal weather Sundays there may have been 10 hockey groups evolving. Many 'big names' were involved. Some I recall were Ed Emery, Arlington's star of '48, about 6'4", considered 'too tall' in those days. 'Red' Marsh, Jack Kelley, Jack Martin, Butch Songin, Bruce Mather, Jimmy Nestor and others I haven't yet recalled joined in. You would hang in there until you weren't getting the puck any longer and drop out for a game more your speed.
If the edge of the ice on the south side was safe Belmont people got on big Spy from Route 2 and going down the steep embankment to the edge. I recall cars parked along Route 2 until I assume that got banned. If that edge wasn't safe we had to almost double our distance to go to the west side along Pleasant Street, down Kensington Park Road to Shore Road or on the east side via Spy Pond Parkway. These later 'get on places' were over a mile from our house. I recall one Sunday at that 'lace up' your skates spot eyeing Dick Button arriving in a his light green Jaguar XK120 convertible. That same day my cousin Priscilla showed up with a gal friend from Arlington where they lived. She was a good skater and a long standing hockey fan.
We would play on saturday or sunday mornings, go home for lunch and come back but often on sundays the ice would get quite crowded. Our only refreshment was to suck on hunks of ice or snow, maybe a candy bar in one's pocket. We sure worked up a good apetite for supper or dinner whichever it was called in your house.
There were many schools represented not only because of several towns being close by but many area kids went to parochial and private schools.
We were self trained, it was up to us to watch the better players and adapt. As I responded when asked once on a hockey history forum what were the development programs' around Boston back then that produced so many Olympians.
I can recall balancing my skates and stick on a bicycle and riding to where ever there was even a hint of ice. Sometimes that meant on roads slippery with snow patches. Gradually I became an 'ice fanatic' and can recall to this day, those disappointing winters where good black ice would get ruined by a rain, then snow.
One of my earliest memories of older players was Herbie Winter since I knew him from his working in his father's hardware store in Cushing Square. I can recall seeing him in a game in the Garden and I think he wore number 26, the number I got in 1949. His death in World War Two is something I have never forgotten, one of the first to strike home to me.
I was one of the first in our gang to get shin pads and gloves. I got a tip, maybe a Regan or Mort Robinson's aunt who worked for the Boston Post that Raymond's had a large Christmas time sale of CCM hockey gear.
I never had my own full uniform other than at Belmont High until age 35 in California. The only shoulder pads I ever wore were required by a league in Northwest Arkansas in '99.
Paul D. "Pokey" Hanson who later was Town Treasurer took the names and birthdates of 'the gang' who played hockey regularly on Little Spy Pond, off Brighton St. His intent was to form an amateur club with whatever was the 'governing' body of U.S. amateur hockey. Whether that was AHAUS, Amateur Hockey Association of the U.S. for many years headed by Tom Lockhart, I don't know.
My brother and I were about the same height but since I was ahead of him in joining the 'Little Spy bunch', he was called 'little Nix' and I was 'big Nix'. We played hockey endlessly on Little Spy pond, 8 hours on some Saturdays and Sundays. As my brother recalled in 1999 back then when he and I were on opposing teams, no one scored on either team. We were both fast skaters whose roles were 'defensive', back checking and defense. I know I used to catch up with slow puck carriers and sweep in front of them, take the puck and go back the other way. Many of our local friends remained slow despite years of experience. Later in life I discovered that is not unusual. It caused me to 'play up' from age 14 which contributed to my decision to not play for the BHS coach in my senior year.
Skip Viglirolo was always ready to carry the puck or take a pass. There were no nets, just two shoes so no shooting was allowed. You had to carry the puck in and just poke it between the shoes. 'Offside' meant going too far to the outside of the 'game area' and it would bring shouts to shut the play down and the puck carrier was supposed to 'come in' as in soccer from the sidelines. Another trick was to go to the open ice behind one's net and get up a head of steam.
I don't know if we had a 'club name'. The knickname 'The Suns' came about that time related to a dad who later moved to New Jersey who did form a kids amateur football team, along the lines of Pop Warner for kids (which I also managed in Southern California in the late '60's). 'The Suns' were 'the kids' from the Winn Brook to the Arlington line. My brother and I were sort of the 'upper swamp', that is south of the Winn Brook. We had a 'field fight' once in the spring of about '42-43 from 'dugouts', throwing dirt clogs. But any animosities were subsequently forgotten on the playing fields. 'Our gang' included Nelson Byrne, Fred McKinnon, Red Coleman, the four Thomas brothers and others whose names I don't recall. The Thomases later moved to Newton and George played hockey for Newton High in the GBI league.
We had "turf wars" on Big and Little Spy over 'who did the work'. I can recall one rink on the ice was small since a few of us had ploughed back the snow on Friday night, then it rained and froze. Barry Cronin could see the ice from his house so he was 'the guardian'. He often kept up a 'play by play' chatter while playing. We had to play four to a side and kick anyone else out. I think we were stuck with that little rink for a couple of weeks, all the rest of Spy having some corduroy ice, safe but not good for any skates. We would look across the expanse of ice and see a knot of 'Arlington kids' on some spots they had cleared. I recall playing April 1st one year on a ice flo, melted away from the shore and taking a boat out from a guy named Shea's house on the east shore.
The cops never bothered us on those ponds. I can recall using the rescue ladders on both ponds. Jackie Cronin dove through a hole, swam under water and pulled Ed McCabe back to the hole on Little Spy one afternoon. The rest of us were stretched out, holding hands to feet in case the ice broke. That was the worst incident we had. With a coach and some organized regulation rink games our teams would have been highly competitive.
Other regulars on Little Spy were Bobby Wardwell, Jack McDougall, Paul 'Peewee' Almond, Dave 'Red' Martin, Gord Gilson. Ronnie Silver who moved away by high school days, Bob "Little Pokey" Hanson, John Govan, Barry and Donnie Cronin, Bobby Edmands, Skippy's younger brother, Jay, the Regan twins, Richie Nestor, Johnny Beeton and many I haven't recalled yet.
Skip went on to being "Mr Hockey' in Belmont to the extent that the first ever indoor rink in Belmont was named for him when I believe he was employed by the town's parks and recreation department. Graphic found via google images, at www.town.belmont.ma.us/.../BelmontMA_Pics/, although I can't find it on the source site.
The girls were there in figure skates. On Little Spy I can recall Mary Giurleo who lived on Lake Street and on Big Spy, my cousin Priscilla. On sunny 'good skating' sundays the ponds were crowded. On Little Spy we would have from Father Zarumskis from St. Josephs in our hockey game and the Pastor, Father Haney 'cutting figures' on his figure skates. Also the Day brothers who lived on Drew Road.
When I was in the service my brother went in at Little Spy and under the ice briefly. When he held onto the ice it wouldn't hold him to get out. Guys pushed a ladder to him and the Belmont Fire Department had to come and take him out. He got 'some publicity' for that, somewhat embarrasing since he was about 23. I think the Record American had to say 'Harvard' grad somehow.
My brother and I saved John McGreenery's life on the rushing Underwood brook (actually a branch of the Fitchburg River) one spring. We stretched out, my brother held my feet on the slippery bank and I reached out and Johnny grabbed my arm. He might have survived since he was a good swimmer but fully clothed, cold water and that tunnel ahead. We never told anyone since Johnny would probably have been restricted.
Little Spy had a nice embankment on the south side where we always had a small fire no one could see from the road. I can recall 'way back then' that Skip Viglirolo was always fair minded, concerned about others, would be picking even sides while we were still putting on our skates. Two guys were prone to arguing or fighting each other, best of friends otherwise. I won't mention 'who'. We skated after it was too dark to play hockey and then walk home in the pitch dark. I've talked with many Canadians and 'northerners' who have said 'there was no other experience to match it'. Tommy Williams related to us at an LA area hockey school how he even skipped school to stay out on the lake in Minnesota.
Chasing and saving pucks was a major adventure. NO ONE had any money.
Since we didn't have goals or goalies someone would 'hang back' and I learned drop down tactics which I used in California and would hear, 'Nice move Joe'. 'Hothouse' players would never have learned those tricks. I played 'back' when I was maybe into my third game of the day and it was older faster guys. I also recall skating 'wing' on some lines with 'big name' guys, just to catch a pass in front of the net and feed them the puck whenever I got it. That was when some 'took notice' that I could outspeed many going on rushes or backchecking.
The last time I might have played 'Belmont pond hockey' was February-March 1953 after I quit Harvard and was waiting for my 8 April 1953 enlistment into the United States Army Security Agency at Fort Devens. I retained my equipment and after marriage I played once on ponds in Lynn, at my brother's ski group lodge in Vermont and on the front lawn of our house in Sudbury. My ex could handle a stick since she had grown up with 'the boys' in Lynnfield, Dickie Weeks and his friends.
SOME OTHER PLACES WE PLAYED
One day probably in the fall of '48 Dave Reidy and some others picked me up in his '39 Ford with a flapping right rear fender to go out to some black ice in Lincoln. I can remember asking Dave if the whole side might not fall off?'. Big laugh, "no Joe, just put your bag on that side." The cold wind blew in the opening of course. We played on the ice until we noticed it undulating up and down enough to scare us.
In August 2000 C. Roy Scammell BHS '50 emailed me his hockey memories. He grew up on Sycamore Street, Belmont:
- Belmont Hill School had two wooden board, outdoor rinks in a low spot which could be flooded and the surfaces sprayed.
- The Country Club between Trapelo Rd and Watertown had a small pond although the site was more popular for skiing, sledding and tobagganing.
- The Fresh Pond Municipal Golf Course had a pond on the Belmont side called "Little Fresh Pond" or "Lilly Pond" and a sort of swamp/pond along Concord Avenue called 'Black's Nook'.
- Since buses ran frequently into Cambridge we went to 'Jerry's Pit', a small pond off the Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge and scrimmaged with guys from Rindge Tech and Latin.
- There was a wooden boards rink set up temporarily on Concord Avenue in front of the Neville Manor which back then was a sanitorium, across from Superior Laundry. We got to know some more Cambridge kids by taking the Belmont bus there. My brother worked with some of them or their families at the Harvard Business School."But hockey, I don't know how or why, but the only sports equipment we had as kids were ice skates. Probably got them from the welfare lady. We would skip school if the ice was solid, in fact one time we convinced our mother that there was no school one day because it was Lincoln's birthday."Paul Harvey, BHS '79 who lived on Farnham Street emailed in November '02 that Bob Jefferson, BHS '72, who grew up on Thomas St., told him that his father grew up near the Mill Pond and had a hockey team there. Through the Sullivan brothers, they issued a challenge to guys from Arlmont and Arlington Heights, which group included Paul's father, AHS '39 and uncles who toted their luggage over from Arlington Heights to the Mill Pond to prove their stuff.
"As we got older we would wrap our shins with rolled up newspapers for shin guards. I had the same hockey stick for 7 years. It got so beat up from playing street hockey that I cut up a large tin can and wrapped the blade with it, tacked it on, and covered it with tape. In my senior year I finally got a new stick and that only lasted 1 year."
"Waverley kids played most of their hockey down at the 'meadows.' That was a huge swamp that the Beaver Brook from Waverley Oaks drained into. All of it was in Waltham at the edge of Watertown and Belmont. I bet it was 1/2 mile long when fully flooded. Each Fall, some of the older guys would damn up the brook near the Shell Oil tank farm. By November the whole meadows was flooded. The Waltham officials at the request of Shell Oil would try to open the damn, but you know kids, they were back later the same night and blocked it again. The kids there were mostly from Waltham and Watertown with maybe a dozen or so from Waverley. It was quite a hike from home for everyone so those not interested in hockey didn't go there. Otherwise we would play on the Mill Pond except on Saturday and Sunday afternoons when the young kids, girls, and parents showed up. Then the MDC cops kicked us off the ice. The Duck pond didn't allow any hockey at all.""We would go up to the Mill pond Friday night and clear off enough snow for a hockey rink. At 7:00 Saturday morning we'd be there, knowing full well that when the non-hockey players showed up, the cops would kick us off. The fact that we worked our butts off to clear the ice didn't matter to the cops. The minute a foreigner started to skate on our clear patch it was all over. As a result, we spent most of our time at the meadows. There was always a bonfire going on the shore to warm those who had fallen in. The area was so hard to reach, that the Waltham firefighters left us alone. They would need a mile of hose to reach the fire."
"When a puck escaped our control and flew out over thin ice, our method of retrieval was to get up speed and go as fast as the wind over the thin ice. Preferably without having to take additional skating steps. Go like hell and glide over the ice. The chances of breaking through were greater if you tried to skate, the downward pressure on your skate blade might break the ice. Our reasoning was, that if you went really fast, you could cross the ice before it could break, and if it did, the breaks were behind you. By the way, it didn't always work!!!"
"One big thrill was crossing what we called "rubber ice." This was thin ice that would undulate as we crossed it, like a wave in the water. We would keep this up until someone fell in. Up at the meadows, this was not a problem as the water was only 1 or 2 feet deep. Around the brook though, that was a greater challenge. The water wasn't very deep, but the brook, being in a restricted pathway, was moving fast and it was easy to lose your footing from the force of the water."
"How vividly I remember walking home down the R.R. tracks in the dark with my skates still on
because my laces were frozen so tight I couldn't undo them. By the time we got to Thayer Rd and down Davis St.. there was sufficient snow and ice so we could skate/slide the rest of the way. The tough part was climbing up the back stairs, across the porch, and in the kitchen
door where my mother always had a good fire going in the wood stove. There she would undo the laces so that we could jettison the skates and stick our feet in the oven, then the wet wool socks starting smelling up the kitchen so we had to pull them off also. Naturally, our skate blades were rounded over but we didn't know the difference. Later in the night one of my older brothers would get a file and try and flatten the blades. That was Harold, who played for BHS and knew all about that stuff. "
To be a hockey player in the Boston area in those days was a mark of distinction and entry into a not very large 'brotherhood' of buddies. From what I hear from my brother that 'brotherhood' still gathers at the annual Beanpot Tourney of area college teams
When we watched the pros in those pre-TV days our focus was 'why is he out there on that ice with a 'big name'? It certainly was for me and we assumed that Canadians played the game every year more than we did and had very strong community support.
We felt that with better facilities and some experienced coaches we we would reach some degree of parity. Many of us in Boston felt that way and by the 60's when we coached and played with Canadians who had made the minors and some the top pro ranks we realized we did have talent and desire but not the facilities and learned the game virtually without organized coaching.
Proof of having had the skills was being told more than once by guys who made the National Hockey League or it's tryout camps that they were amazed at the degree of improvement I and some others in California accomplished after the age of 35.
Richard Betts in the Belmont Historical Society Newsletter, June 2002 wrote under 'Recent Gifts';
"From former Belmontian Joseph Nix of Freistatt, Missouri, an eleven page article 'Growing Up in Belmont 1932-1960' and a seven page article 'Pond Ice Hockey, Belmont Mass. 1940-1953."
At times since I put this on line in 2001 I have had communication with; Richard Regan, Bobby Wardwell's sons, John Govan, Mary Giurleo Schroder, Roy Scammell, Richard Betts, Gordon Gilson, John Hutchinson, John McGreenery, Priscilla Nix Sheldon, Paul Harvey, Robert Nix and Skip Viglirolo via Wally Flewelling.
- Backyard Rinks Howard's corner of the web, photos and stories of of hundreds of backyard rinks
- Pond Hockey Movie project in Minnesota.
Email to Joe Nix, creator of these pages
Back to my HOCKEY INDEX page