BERLIN - Stories of a pool, several bridges and the Worthington Meeting House were shared recently at a program on Berlin icons, hosted by the Berlin Historical Society, at the Berlin Senior Center.
“I never see people squirming in their seats or getting up to leave,” said society Secretary Lorraine Stub after the two-hour discussion in front of about 80 people. “They are fully engaged in lively discussions.”
The discussion that drew the most audience participation was on the old Memorial Pool on the south side of Norton Road, built by the Lions Club on farmland donated by the Munson and Rudnick families to honor those who served during both World Wars, Stub said. It opened in 1947.
The dug-out pond with a sandy bottom was fed by a nearby brook, Stub said, before being paved in 1966. It retained a sandy surrounding beach.
Picnic tables, a shallow end for small children and a snack bar were among its features, and the location was surrounded by cornfields and woods.
“Someone snuck in at night and created monster footprints coming from the water and left animal bones on the beach,” Stub said about Gary Gurske, a lifeguard at the pool, who recalled one of the pranks pulled there.
Others shared memories of muskrats and snakes finding their way into the pool.
“The first kids to discover the horrible scene when the pool opened that afternoon never came back,” according to Gurske, Stub said.
In 2005, flooding spilled chlorine into the brook and the Lions struggled to keep the pipes thawed, Stub said. With cleanup and maintenance costs too high for the Lions and the town passing on acquiring the pool, the land was sold to a developer, who eliminated the old pool and built a development now called Lionsgate Estates, Stub said.
Also discussed was the former Berlin Iron Bridge business, Stub said.
Using a patented steel “lenticular truss” style with a curved shape, Stub said, the business built 1,000 bridges around the country. They included the Portland Passenger Bridge, built in 1896 over the Connecticut River, linking Portland to Middletown.
Marilyn DeMaria remembered her father telling of driving across it as a train derailed over the parallel railroad bridge, Stub said.
The bridge was damaged during the floods of 1936, Stub said, and was replaced in 1938 by the Arrigoni Bridge.
Remaining Berlin Iron Bridge bridges are on the National Register of Historic Places, said Stub, including Meriden’s Red Bridge at the entrance to the Quinnipiac River Gorge Trail in Meriden.
The Worthington Meeting House on Worthington Ridge topped a survey on Berlin icons, and it came up in the discussion of old schoolhouses remaining in town, Stub said.
Art Powers spoke of mischief in the building that served as a school and as town offices throughout the years, but also of affection for teachers including Catherine McGee, Stub said.
Another story related how Arthur Woodruff, a longtime town clerk who rode his bicycle to work, would stop by the school several times a day to help a disabled girl up and down the stairs so she could attend classes.
Stub said she told the senior center gathering about plans to reuse the building as the home of the Berlin Historical Society and for future community events, and said the community must honor past generations by making it happen. She said the audience “heartily applauded.”
Other topics discussed by the seniors were the town’s status as the geographic center of the state, its history of brick production and an ornate “spooky house” on the corner of Deming and Episcopal roads, Stub said.
“The impetus for these programs was to gather stories from our older citizens - those with long-ago memories,” said Stub, who said she’d like to have some of them at night or on a weekend so people who work can participate.
She said sharing video of the sessions, which features about 70 slides of vintage photographs, is being discussed.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.