Cocoanut Grove Fire

The People

Where does one begin when trying to describe all the people affected by the Cocoanut Grove fire? A myriad of people were affected. About some groups, a lot is known. About others, while they may be critical to the history of the fire, the relevant information just has not come forward. For what we do know, the sheer numbers are astounding: nearly 500 dead; 300-350 survivors; and 166 hospitalized. These numbers tell us that for approximately every four patrons at the Cocoanut Grove at the time of the fire, two would die, one would be injured, and one would walk away. These are numbers that defy the odds for most disasters, where the majority of those affected survive.

The numbers for the community response was likewise daunting, which included Boston firefighters from 39 units; 930 police officers; and unknown number of volunteer firefighters from neighboring towns, Coast Guard, Military Police and other military responders, civil defense workers, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, taxi drivers, Red Cross workers, post-fire inspectors; and volunteers of all kinds. Add to these the number of families and friends whose lives were also dramatically changed forever, perhaps most poignantly symbolized by the numerous children who became orphans after losing both parents.

Throughout the years many have told their stories or the stories that been handed down by families and friends. Gathering together these stories (and hopefully new stories) will take time and lots of research. With the help of researchers and readers of this site, the site can be greatly expanded.

At the time of the 50th anniversary, many survivors, first responders, and families came together to tell their stories and to remember loved ones. Fortunately, several were interviewed, and their stories have been saved.

When the news went out concerning the creation of this site, two survivors came forward and allowed us to record their stories.

Ann Clark was sixteen at the time of the fire. She had attended the BC-Holy Cross football game with her parents, Clyde and Mable Clark; her boyfriend, Fred Sharby, Jr.; and his parents, Fred and Hortense Sharby. Ann was in the hospital for four weeks. Only she and Mrs. Sharby survived.

Marshall Cole was sixteen and one of the dancers. He was in a dressing room on the 2nd floor at the time of the fire and was able to escape from the roof, along with other entertainers.

Hopefully, over time, the stories of survivors and others impacted by the fire can be added to this site to increase the knowledge of what this fire has caused, beyond the official numbers...