Monday, October 13, 2014
Photo Essay - the Recreation at Wall's (Hall's) Pond of Yesteryear
The following collection of photos below tell the story of a bygone era when kids from West Hempstead and its environs would frequent Wall's Pond year-round for an array of recreation opportunities, from swimming and boating in the summer, to skating and sledding in the winter. All photos (with the exception of the above photo, courtesy of the WH Historical Society) come from the pages of the now defunct Nassau Daily Review-Star between the mid '30s and early '50s, the paper of record for all local news in Central-Southern Nassau County during that period. As can be seen in the photos, Wall's Pond got alot of heavy use in those days as a favorite watering hole for youngsters looking for a good pastime activity, and they highlight just how rural our community was back then. In 1961, Nassau County purchased the land surrounding what was then called Wall's Pond and developed a park that they named Hall's Pond Park, to honor the family of an early owner of the property, Martin V. W. Hall. The irony contained in the County's purchase and development is that it marked a turning point for Hall's Pond Park when it was no longer used for the activities illustrated below, but was instead converted into a "passive park". A separate post is needed to explain (i.e. complain about) how that ended up happening. For now, step back into yesteryear and enjoy the photos. As a frame of reference, I left in the photo captions included in the newspaper for better explanation. BTW - virtually all references to the pond at that time had it as "Wall's Pond", not "Hall's Pond".
1) The old Boy Scout rhyme about ice-pond safety went something like this: 1 inch - stay away, 2 inches - one may, 3 inches - small groups, 4 inches - O.K. The photo below shows that back in the 1930s, winters were cold enough for a sufficiently long time to freeze over Wall's Pond and make it safe for any kind of winter activity.
2) In the summer of 1935, a 12 year-old boy named Walter Frederick, who lived just down the road from Wall's Pond on Hawthorne St, got a nasty bite on his leg while swimming at the north side of the pond. A year later, he got his revenge when his attacker was caught, a 35lb turtle who would angrily fend off anyone who dared invade his habitat. The photo below (which unfortunately got overexposed when converted to .pdf) shows the police officers in the process of corralling the turtle, to be later transported to a menagerie that State troopers maintained at Belmont Lake State Park.
3) Below is a scene that would be utterly unimaginable today; on an unusually hot spring day in April 1938, a group of four boys took the opportunity to raft out on the pond on a makeshift boat made by cutting an oil tank in two.
4) Here's another great shot from late June, 1939 of a boy paddling out with an acquaintance on a home-made boat that he christened the H.M.S. Foo.
5) June, 1940. Apparently at least some of the shoreline of Wall's Pond was sufficiently deep enough for brave divers to jump headlong into the water. Bottom image, on the shore, a sunbather smiles for the photo.
6) Most people today who would catch the scene depicted below would undoubtedly call the police - two boys, ages 9 and 8 on their skiff, getting their rods ready for a day of fishing on Wall's Pond. In 1949, it was a common sight.
7) As late as the summer of 1951, much of West Hempstead was still rural farmland. A favorite pastime of the young farmhands of the area, such as Christian Limbach, below, whose family ran a farm down the road in Lakeview, was fishing. The Daily Review-Star photographer caught the young boy napping, while holding onto his rod.
8) In 1937, the Nassau Daily Review-Star ran a contest called the "Lucky Circle" where they would publish a photo of a crowd engaged in some activity somewhere in Nassau County, and circle one face in the crowd. If the person circled in the photo would then call up the newspaper's office and correctly identify themselves, they would win a prize. The grand prize for the lucky winners? A whopping $2 (no small sum during the Depression). The photo below showing a group of ice skaters on Wall's Pond appeared on the front page of the Dec. 14, 1937 edition of the Daily Review-Star. Two days later Eileen Dillon of Rockville Centre correctly identified herself and claimed her prize.
9) Below is a photo of two girls lacing up their ice skates at Wall's Pond during a late winter cold spell in early 1950. From the newspaper's masthead, which I have included, it looked as though the snow would turn to rain the following day
10) The old conventional wisdom states that back in those days, Pine Brook, which flowed into Wall's Pond, ran clear as a mountain stream and provided swimmers with clean and sanitary conditions in the pond. The photo and article below from the summer of 1941 showed that this was not always the case. Pollutants from the Garden City waste transfer station on Cherry Valley Ave further upstream, as well as dangerous contaminants from Nassau Hospital (forerunner to Winthrop University Hospital) in Mineola further north, got into the water and forced health officials to close down Walls Pond to swimming, much to the chagrin of the young bathers shown in the bottom photo. The top photo shows the lillies that used to blanket part of the pond.
11) Finally, the terrific photo below taken at the southern end of Wall's Pond in June 1939, shows a group of young swimmers along the shore. In those days, County policemen would be stationed to protect the youngsters from traffic on Hempstead Avenue and, if needed, also assume the role of lifeguard. The photo also contains an old relic that no longer exists - the concrete and steel of the northern wall of the old bridge that carried Hempstead Avenue traffic over Pine Stream. The bottom photo puts some NCPD humor on display with a deliberately misspelled sign pointing to the Wall's Pond Swimmin' Hole