Survivors remember deadliest nightclub fire in US history

Survivors of the deadliest nightclub fire in US history gathered with families of the victims killed in the decades-old Boston blaze on Saturday.

Tuesday will mark the 75th anniversary of the November 28, 1942, fire at the former Cocoanut Grove club that claimed the lives of 492 people. An estimated 1,000 people were in the building at the time.

Two survivors, Joyce S. Mekelburg, 93, of Brockton, and Marshall Cole, 92, who escaped the blaze joined former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and others at the Revere Hotel on Saturday afternoon.

Mekelburg and Cole are two of eight living survivors from the tragedy. 

Scroll down for video 

Joyce Mekelburg

Joyce Mekelburg

Marshall Cole

Marshall Cole

Two survivors, Joyce S. Mekelburg (left), 93, of Brockton, and Marshall Cole (right), 92, who escaped the blaze joined former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and others at the Revere Hotel on Saturday afternoon

Tuesday will mark the 75th anniversary of the November 28, 1942, fire at the former Cocoanut Grove club that claimed the lives of 492 people

Tuesday will mark the 75th anniversary of the November 28, 1942, fire at the former Cocoanut Grove club that claimed the lives of 492 people

Tuesday will mark the 75th anniversary of the November 28, 1942, fire at the former Cocoanut Grove club that claimed the lives of 492 people

Two people, Joyce S. Mekelburg, 93, of Brockton, and Cole, 92, who escaped the blaze joined former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and others at the Revere Hotel on Saturday afternoon ahead of the anniversary. Pictured is the interior of the club after the bodies were removed 

Two people, Joyce S. Mekelburg, 93, of Brockton, and Cole, 92, who escaped the blaze joined former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and others at the Revere Hotel on Saturday afternoon ahead of the anniversary. Pictured is the interior of the club after the bodies were removed 

Two people, Joyce S. Mekelburg, 93, of Brockton, and Cole, 92, who escaped the blaze joined former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and others at the Revere Hotel on Saturday afternoon ahead of the anniversary. Pictured is the interior of the club after the bodies were removed 

Dead, dying and injured lie in street outside Cocoanut Grove while civilians and doctors administer aid. This tragic scene was the aftermath of the fire

Dead, dying and injured lie in street outside Cocoanut Grove while civilians and doctors administer aid. This tragic scene was the aftermath of the fire

Dead, dying and injured lie in street outside Cocoanut Grove while civilians and doctors administer aid. This tragic scene was the aftermath of the fire

This photo shows a guest being carried to a waiting ambulance by one of the many civilians who helped police and firemen on that tragic night

This photo shows a guest being carried to a waiting ambulance by one of the many civilians who helped police and firemen on that tragic night

This photo shows a guest being carried to a waiting ambulance by one of the many civilians who helped police and firemen on that tragic night

Mekelburg, then 18, went to the nightspot with her fiance, Justin Morgan, according to the Boston Globe. She said a man lit a match to change a light bulb before flames broke out.

Morgan told her to leave and promised to meet her outside, she said, but he didn’t make it.  

‘Everybody around me was screaming and crawling,’ she said. ‘Nobody knew where to go or how to go and everybody was crawling in a different direction.’

Cole, who was a tap dancer at the club, told the Globe that he was waiting for his second performance of the night when the fire broke out. 

‘The place was just mobbed. It was standing-room only,’ he said, adding that because of the crowd he waited in his dressing room.  

‘And that saved my life because I would have been in the Melody Lounge.’

Cole also shared his story during a street sign unveiling in 2013. The street was named after the Cocoanut Grove nightclub

Cole also shared his story during a street sign unveiling in 2013. The street was named after the Cocoanut Grove nightclub

Cole also shared his story during a street sign unveiling in 2013. The street was named after the Cocoanut Grove nightclub

A documentary about the fire, 'Six Locked Doors,' premiered at the Saturday afternoon event on Stuart Street, where the nightclub was located. Two men are pictured carrying a victim out of the nightclub to safety 

A documentary about the fire, 'Six Locked Doors,' premiered at the Saturday afternoon event on Stuart Street, where the nightclub was located. Two men are pictured carrying a victim out of the nightclub to safety 

A documentary about the fire, ‘Six Locked Doors,’ premiered at the Saturday afternoon event on Stuart Street, where the nightclub was located. Two men are pictured carrying a victim out of the nightclub to safety 

This photo was taken within half an hour before the tragic Cocoanut Grove fire by a photographer who escaped being a probable fire victim by going out to develop the films a few minutes before the disaster. Mickey Alpert (center) was master of ceremonies. He fled the club uninjured and the other three soldiers in this photo left before the fire started 

This photo was taken within half an hour before the tragic Cocoanut Grove fire by a photographer who escaped being a probable fire victim by going out to develop the films a few minutes before the disaster. Mickey Alpert (center) was master of ceremonies. He fled the club uninjured and the other three soldiers in this photo left before the fire started 

This photo was taken within half an hour before the tragic Cocoanut Grove fire by a photographer who escaped being a probable fire victim by going out to develop the films a few minutes before the disaster. Mickey Alpert (center) was master of ceremonies. He fled the club uninjured and the other three soldiers in this photo left before the fire started 

This photo of the Melody Lounge bar in the Cocoanut Grove night club, was taken after it opened, before roaring flames swept throught the club

This photo of the Melody Lounge bar in the Cocoanut Grove night club, was taken after it opened, before roaring flames swept throught the club

This photo of the Melody Lounge bar in the Cocoanut Grove night club, was taken after it opened, before roaring flames swept throught the club

A documentary about the fire, ‘Six Locked Doors,’ premiered at the event on Stuart Street, where the nightclub was located. 

The film features accounts from the survivors. The fire at what had been one of Boston’s foremost nightspots led to new requirements for sprinkler systems and exits.

Barnett Welansky, the Cocoanut Grove’s owner, had apparently hired unlicensed electricians to install electrical fixtures, according to the Globe. 

The cause of the fire has never been officially determined, but faulty wiring was one of the many suspected causes of the fire.

Welansky was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but was later pardoned by Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, who had become governor.

A 16-year-old busboy by the name of Stanley Tomaszewski was blamed by many for starting the blaze. 

While the teen was trying to replace a bulb inside the club, he lit a match so he could see. He then extinguished the match by stepping on it. Not long after, flames were seen in the area.

Barnett Welansky, the Cocoanut Grove's (pictured after the fire) owner, had apparently hired unlicensed electricians to install electrical fixtures, according to the Globe. The cause of the fire has never been officially determined, but faulty wiring was one of the many suspected causes of the fire

Barnett Welansky, the Cocoanut Grove's (pictured after the fire) owner, had apparently hired unlicensed electricians to install electrical fixtures, according to the Globe. The cause of the fire has never been officially determined, but faulty wiring was one of the many suspected causes of the fire

Barnett Welansky, the Cocoanut Grove’s (pictured after the fire) owner, had apparently hired unlicensed electricians to install electrical fixtures, according to the Globe. The cause of the fire has never been officially determined, but faulty wiring was one of the many suspected causes of the fire

Welansky was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but was later pardoned by Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, who had become governor. A 16-year-old busboy by the name of Stanley Tomaszewski was blamed by many for starting the blaze. Two unknown victims are following the tragedy 

Welansky was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but was later pardoned by Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, who had become governor. A 16-year-old busboy by the name of Stanley Tomaszewski was blamed by many for starting the blaze. Two unknown victims are following the tragedy 

Welansky was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but was later pardoned by Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, who had become governor. A 16-year-old busboy by the name of Stanley Tomaszewski was blamed by many for starting the blaze. Two unknown victims are following the tragedy 

While the teen was trying to replace a bulb inside the club, he lit a match so he could see. He then extinguished the match by stepping on it. Not long after, flames were seen in the area. Victims are seen being helped outside the club 

While the teen was trying to replace a bulb inside the club, he lit a match so he could see. He then extinguished the match by stepping on it. Not long after, flames were seen in the area. Victims are seen being helped outside the club 

While the teen was trying to replace a bulb inside the club, he lit a match so he could see. He then extinguished the match by stepping on it. Not long after, flames were seen in the area. Victims are seen being helped outside the club 

Leave a Reply

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