I have a book with that title unfortunately it is in a bookcase in my grandaughter’s house in Spain.
Its about the Coconut Grove fire in Boston in 1942. 600 people died among them was Buck Jones the cowboy film star. He tried and saved several people. I met a guy in the Weatherspoon pub in Ashington recently. He was wearing a Buck Jones hat he is a member of a club that honours Buck Jones and commemorates his life. I was in the combined operations and was in Boston at the time to pick up a landing craft. We received $25 a month extra to compensate for the cost of living in the USA. As the cover charge for the Coconut Grove was $10 it was well above our budget.
There was a big football game on that weekend and the Coconut Grove was full to capacity in fact there was very little check as to how many customers were there was like three sections the main room then a slightly higher room and to the right a lower room. The fire started in the lower room a couple were sitting there and the man needing a bit more privacy had unscrewed a light bulb. Later the barman asked a 17year assistant to replace the bulb. The lad went over with the replacement bulb there was decor etc: which obscured the socket so he struck a match to help locate it, then returned to his duty. the decor was caught from the match and quickly spread. Then like an inferno expanded up to the other sections. Some people managed to get into the fridges to avoid the flames. But the majority were trapeed and the entrance doors were soon blocked with people try ing to get out.
Shortley afterwards I was given gaiters and a big truncheon and sent on patrol with a big US sailor but needless to say it was a case of shutting the gate after the horse had bolted. The authorities were unprepared for a castrophie of such proportion. My friends the Gagnons had a daughter in hospital for an appendix operation she had to give up her bed to make room for the injured from the fire. Milk floats etc: were used to transport the injured the hospitals did their best but were just overwhelmed by the number of casualties.
Ironically next morning all the cash takings were recovered int act and all the cars were waiting for their owners who failed to return the authorities decided there would be no more night club to be opened with the name of Coconut Grove. I had my 20th b/day in the USA. I met up with some lovely people especially the Gagnons he was from French Canadians but she was from Belfast. She was a cleaner at Harvard College. we couldn’t jitterbug but could
dance the old fashioned waltz. Mr Gagnon had a bad back and couldn’t work. He had been lifting telegraph poles. However he was ashamed of himself because his wife worked at the college till 1pm , then did a shift at the rubber works. Her hands were really rough handling cables all day. He had a big knife and was going to cut his throat over the kitchen sink I had difficulty dissuading him. His mother visited and refused to talk English.
To my shame I was involved robbing a drunk American sailor gave the proceeds to the Gagnons. I was a bit drunk at the time and easy led. The less said about that period the better but we sailed to NY and I did meet up with my mothers sister and family, And we’ve kept in touch ever since. But 600 casualties What a shame…..

This entry was posted in USA and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>