Boston, MA Cocoanut Grove Club Fire, Nov 1942

Cocoanut Grove Night Club Fire from Front View Of Building Side View of Building Memorial Plaque Memorial Plaque




Lowell -- With scores of charred bodies remaining unidentified in Boston morgues, Greater Lowell had already counted 10 dead and one missing in the horrible holocaust enacted at the Cocoanut Grove club Saturday night, as the tragic list kept mounting early this afternoon.

Greater Lowell Victims.
KELLY, MARY E., 21 Myrtle street, Lowell.
ROGERS, MILDRED, 50 Varnum street, Lowell.
FITZGERALD, Private HENRY T., 29, Lake street, Wilmington.
FITZGERALD, JAMES J., 39, Lake street, Wilmington.
FITZGERALD, JOHN A., 41, Lake street, Wilmington.
FITZGERALD, Wilfrid A., 31, Lake street, Wilmington.
LOWE, GEORGE T., 45, Frost road, Tyngsboro.
QUINLAN, Sergt, JOHN J., Burnap street, Wilmington.
ALTIERI, Private FRED L., Fort Devens.
ADLER, Private MILTON DAVID, Fort Devens.

PEAVEY, JANE, daughter of Col. HARRY C. PEAVEY, Fort Devens.

GOODWIN, JAMES, U. S. Coast Guard, Woburn street, North Wilmington, rescue worker.

Other Victims Well Known Here.
AMBROSE, MARION, 42 Fine street, Winchester.
GRIFFIN, HELEN C., 330 Primrose street, Haverhill.
WELCH, HELEN, 28 Lebanon street, Winchester.
(All Lowell State Teachers' College graduates)
GILBRIDE, CAROLYN, 20, 44 Grant road, Swampscott.
DEE, ANNA, 10 Bromfield street, West Somerville, also a Lowell State Teachers' College graduate.

The pall of grief arising from the unprecedented catastrophe, spread to the families of two Lowell young women, four Wilmington brothers, a Wilmington army sergeant and a Tyngsboro World War veteran. In addition, Lowell relatives and friends mourned the deaths of four young women living in other communities, but well know here as a result of attendance at the Lowell State Teachers' college. At least two Fort Devens soldiers also died.

Six of the local victims were members of a party of 12 men and women, only one of the whom was saved. There included MARY E. KELLY, 21 Myrtle street; MILDRED ROGERS, 50 Varnum street, and HARRY, JAMES, JOHN and WILFRID FITZGERALD of Lake street, Wilmington.
The town of Wilmington bore the brunt of Greater Lowell's losses, for in addition to the four FITZGERALD brothers, Sergt, JOHN J. QUINLAN of Burnap street, Wilmington, stationed at Fort Devens, also died in the club fire. MISS ROGERS was principal of a Wilmington grade school.
Late reports placed among the missing and probably dead, the name of MISS JANE PEAVEY, daughter of Col. and MRS. HARRY C. PEAVEY of Fort Devens. MISS PEAVEY'S father, dental chief at the fort, was leading a search for his this noon, with but scant hope of finding her alive.
Two Fort Devens soldiers were definitely placed among the dead. Officials gave their names as Private First Class FRED L. ALITERI and Private MILTON DAVID ADLER, the former a resident of Somerville. ADLER'S home city was not known at press time.
Several other Fort Devens officers and soldiers may also have lost their lives, and a thorough check was being made today.

Well-known here and all dead, are: The MISSES MARION AMBROSE, 42 Fine street, Winchester; HELEN WELCH, 28 Lebanon street, Winchester; CAROLYN GILBRIDE, 44 Grant road, Swampscott and HELEN C. GRIFFIN, 330 Primrose street, Haverhill. They were graduates of the local Teachers' college. Several have local relatives. Injured, is MISS ANNA DEE of 10 Bromfield street, West Somerville, also widely known and a former Teachers' college student.
The World War veteran who survived German bullets and shells, only to succumb in the Boston fire, was GEORGE T. LOWE, 45, of Frost road, Tyngsboro recently moved to Boston, where he was working at the navy yard.
LOWE'S sister, MRS. JULIA THOMPSON or read 238 Appleton street, heard her own name called out in reports yesterday as being among the dead. The case of mistaken identity caused many calls to come to her home and was apparently the result of her name being found on her brother's body.
The most tragic episode in the greater-Lowell area, was the near wiping-out of a party of 12 persons who had gathered at the club to fete the home-coming for the Thanksgiving holiday of two soldiers, Pvt. HENRY FITZGERALD of Wilmington and Pvt. ROBERT HORRIGAN of Turners Falls.
This group, comprising of six men and six young women, went to the club only a short time before fire broke out. All perished, with the exception of Pvt. HORRIGAN, who lies gravely injured in a Boston hospital.
Throughout the city and its suburbs, grief was widespread. For the first time since Pearl Harbor war was only a secondary topic. The city actually appeared stunned, although the tragedy occurred more than 25 miles away.
Lowell contributed the use of its patrol wagon, converted into an ambulance and several rescue workers while Wilmington supplied its own ambulance and a number of workers, one of whom was injured. He was JAMES GOODWIN, a member of the U. S. coast guard, who was hurt while aiding in removing victims. GOODWIN is belived to be the only Greater Lowell person injured.



I seem to remember someone

I seem to remember someone named Dotty being mentioned extensively in the most recent Cocoanut Grove book (there are only three or so written ever and one was in the 60's)

Cocoanut Grove Victim John C. Cobb

Your comments about victim John C. Cobb are especially interesting to me, because even after years of researching the subject of Cocoanut Grove victims and survivors, you supplied information which I did not know (I never knew that Mr. Cobb had a fiancee back in Wisconsin, or that his companion that night was his roommate's wife-to-be). I do have the following to offer. John C. Cobb was age 24 at the time of the fire. His home address was 614 South Quincy, Green Bay, WI. He was attending Harvard Business School, to graduate in January. He had been captain of the 1940/41 Yale basketball team. He went to the Grove in a foursome with Paula Ahola and Irja Jacobson, both of Gloucester, MA, and Lieut. William J. Roland, Gladstone, MI. Both men died, both women survived.

What adds a neat twist to the story is that Miss Jacobson (as Mrs. Irja Sheppard) finally told her account to the Boston Herald in April 2000. In that interview she essentially repeats the story she gave in the Gloucester Daily Times of 12/01/42, although here she did not identify the two men by name. She and her girlfriend, Paula 'Polly' Ahola, escaped from the Melody Lounge through the cellar kitchen to Shawmut Street with minor injuries and ripped clothes, then spent the next day at Miss Ahola's Beacon Hill room recovering before she went home to Gloucester.

The 1942 account revealed the names of the two male companions. However, the April 2000 account introduced one key detail, namely that the busboy who lit the match 'reached over her head' to fix the bulb, meaning that she (and presumably her party) were sitting almost exactly where the great fire started. In the 2000 report Mrs. Sheppard claimed she had kept mum about the incident after her mother had admonished, 'You were in that fire! That's because you were in a bar.'

Irja (Jacobson) Sheppard died in October 2001. There is a good picture of John C. Cobb in the 11/30/42 Boston Post. I hope you find the above of some interest.

Cocoanut Grove Victim Ruth M. Knox

Ruth M. Knox was one of 490 victims to perish in the tragic Cocoanut Grove disaster of November 28, 1942. She was only age 18, and lived with her parents Mr. and Mrs. Clarence E. and Catherine (Doherty) Knox, at 473 Eighth Street, in South Boston. She attended the club with her friend Mary Ellen McCormack, South Boston, niece of State Representative John W. McCormack. Miss McCormack's father Edward J. 'Knocko' McCormack allegedly punched Mayor Maurice Tobin twice in the face at the services for his daughter (a story often repeated, never confirmed). The two girls were buried near one another at New Calvary Cemetery, West Roxbury. Her photograph appears on numerous montages of victims, the best quality image seems to be that in the 11/30/42 Boston Globe, on microfilm at the Boston Public Library.

I have researched victims and survivors of the Cocoanut Grove catastrophe for many years. I hope this information is useful.

Cocoanut Grove Victim Conrad E. Schorling

Conrad E. Schorling was one of 490 victims to perish in the tragic Cocoanut Grove disaster on November 28, 1942. He was age 26 at the time of the fire and resided at 24 Fairmount Road, Springfield. He was born in Brattleboro, VT, and came to Springfield as an infant. He was employed in the purchasing department at Westinghouse Electrical & Mfg. Co., East Springfield, MA, plant. Had been a star athlete at Commerce High School, Springfield. Graduate Technical High School in 1933. He later attended Northeastern University. He was widely known as a baseball player with semipro teams. He was a musician on saxophone and clarinet, leader of Swing Kings dance band, which played the Springfield area. He attended the Holy Cross/Boston College football game that afternoon in a foursome with friend Mary Rose O'Sullivan, Holyoke, MA (dead), John P. Lightcap, Jr., East Longmeadow, MA (escaped), and Mary McCarthy, Springfield (escaped). '...Couple...danced with death when they swung into a few final turns on the dance floor...' (Springfield Daily News, 11/30/42). Was identified at Mass General Hospital by papers in billfold. He was one of 20 names chosen as representative manslaughter victim in 1943 trials against Grove owner Barnett Welansky. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. William C. and Emily H. (Ericson) Schorling. Burial was in the family lot at Hillcrest Park Cemetery, Springfield. He was pictured in the Boston Sunday Advertiser Fire Memorial published on 12/06/42, on microfilm at the Boston Public Library. His story appeared in detail in the 11/30/42 Springfield Daily News, also on microfilm. Middle name was Ericson.

Survivors John Lightcap and Mary McCarthy later married. She died in 1965. He passed away in 1994.

I have been researching both victims and survivors of the Cocoanut Grove catastrophe for many years. I hope this information is useful.

Cocoanut Grove Victim Dorothy Powers

Dorothy C. Powers was one of 490 victims to perish in the tragic Cocoanut Grove disaster of November 28, 1942. She was age 29 and single at the time of the fire. She resided with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John A. and Mary (Sullivan) powers, at 415 West Fourth Street, in South Boston. She was a waitress described as 'with a sunny disposition' at Mary Hartigan's restaurant in Dedham. She is pictured in the 11/30/42 Boston Globe, and also in the Fire Memorial published by the Boston Sunday Advertiser on 12/06/42. She is also mentioned in the 12/04/42 issue of the Dedham Transcript. All of the above are on microfilm at the Boston Public Library. She was buried at New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan. Her middle name was Catherine.

I have been researching both the victims and survivors of the Cocoanut Grove catastrophe for many years. I hope this information is useful.

Cocanut Grove Fire

I was 5 years of age. I had been named after Louise Jane Sullivan one of the person who perished. I did not see her name listed on the page of persons who lost their life that night. As a child I remembered that she was there for an engagement party with someone called Larry. The Sullivan Family all came from Quincy, amd worked at the Foreriver Shipyard. There was Dan, Joe, Herbert, Chris and the only sister Louise. Their mother was Jane Sullivan. All are buried at the there in Quincy. I was questioning why her name was not listed? Thank You

Dotty Myles

i've done some research on Dotty Myles. Let me know if you're still interested.
Stephanie Schorow

Mildred Rogers School

I went to the Mildred H Rogers School from 1965-69. It had four classrooms, four grades (1-4) and a sort of hallway/office. Mrs Daly (sp?) was the principal and 2nd grade teacher. At least once a week, it seems, she would go to the office, grab a brass bell on a wooden handle, stand in the middle of the doorway and ring that thing as loud as she could. Then we would all line up single file and exit the building in orderly fashion. Once we were all outside, she would tell us that if we hadn't done so, and if there had been a fire, we all would have died just like Mildred Rogers did. I was saddened when I went to Silver Lake in 2004 and saw that the school had been torn down. Anybody else remember this lady?

I was born 11-28-45!

My mother's fiance, John C. Cobb died in this fire. My mother was home in Green Bay, Wisconsin with the flu.
John C Cobb's roommate was also ill with the flu (they attended Yale). So, John took his roommate's fiance to the football game and on to the Cocoanut Grove. John was a huge, huge football fame. ( He was from Green Bay and loved the Packers, too.) Both of them died. My mother never quit grieving for John, even after marrying my father, Robert E. Alexander, and giving birth to me on November 28, 1945...a sad and cruel remembrance of that awful tragedy. Katherine T. Alexander Anderson. Years later, my youngest son played against Boston College in a college bowl game in SF, and was drafted in 2006 by the NFL.
And, in 2008 he played against the Green Bay Packers and helped beat them by catching two passes up the middle to set up the winning field goal. God Bless, Katie


My dad's cousin, Ruth Knox, died at the Grove. She was there that night with Mary Ellen McCormack, who also perished in the fire. Ruth was
engaged to Mary Ellen's brother. I would love to find a picture of Ruth as I have been told that I resemble her. Does anyone have any info on Ruth and Mary Ellen?