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There comes a time in a young man’s life when he must shed the wool from his eyes and realize the world isn’t the fantasy land that he believed it to be when we he was young…

As a child I spent most of my summers enjoying the pools and grounds at Ponterril on East Acres road in Pittsfield, MA. It was a bastion of summer fun. It had multiple large pools, a spring board, high dive, pavillion, conncession stand, pristine clay tennis courts and some of the most legendary wiffle ball games that these Berkshire hills have ever witnessed only to mention of a few of its attributes. It quite simply was a perfect little summer slice of Americana.

When I was young my family would hop into our station wagon around 10:00am on most warm summer days and make the journey from our home in southeast Pittsfield to our little summer paradise. We would usually drive down First Street. There was a home for mentally handicapped adults where First Street merges into North Street and there was an older woman who would stand outside and crazily wave at oncoming cars. Her name was Crazy Annie.  My father would always joke and say, “Hey, buddy, there’s your girlfriend Crazy Annie.” I would get embarrassed, but we all loved it. It was our ritual and to me it meant that we were very close to our little oasis on the hill. A couple miles down the road from my girlfriend Crazy Annie was East Acres Road. Once I saw the sign for East Acres I knew my day was going to be perfect.

 

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When we made that turn onto East Acres Road I knew that the only thing to worry about was how long it would take to get into the next four square game in the pavillion. Ponterril was operated by the YMCA of Pittsfield and it was a glorious destination. I am sure that many people reading this blog learned how to swim in the pools of Ponterril. Many of my favorite childhood memories involve spending time there on hot summer days.

I recently took a trip up to what was once a vital and integral part of my life, and boy has it changed. Like most of my childhood dreams it is destroyed. Today, in 2015, Ponterril looks more like the movie set of a post apocalyptic action movie than a family summertime retreat. This post is not meant to disparage anyone or any group for the current state of Ponterril I just felt the need to chronicle its current state as it was astonishing to me as someone who spent multiple summers enjoying it.

 

As I drove up one of the first things I saw was the former entrance to the main check in area:

 

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It was strange to see the front steps with overgrown bushes and grasses surrounding it. In the past it was always manicured, but more than that it had always been alive. Usually, at this point you could hear children yelling with excitement and life guards whistles and the hustle and bustle of a day at Ponterril, but this day it was dead silent. This silence created a surreal atmosphere.

We parked the car and walked to the main pool. I had never seen it without water in it…

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Oh, and who didn’t love a hamburger from the concession stand??? Whenever I bite into a premade frozen patty on a supermarket brand white roll I get transported right back to Ponterril. This is what was left of the concession stand.

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After eating some concessions maybe we could play a little tennis…. Or not.

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Most of the structures in pictures you just saw are now completely gone. It was fortuitous that we made the trek to the former Ponterril when we did. I recently found out that demolition of those structures began on September 1st.  Now they only live in peoples memories. Coincidentally, that was the thought in my head while I was there. At first I was sad to see the decrepit facade of a place once teeming with energy and life, but then I thought about it and realized that the structures didn’t matter. It was the people and the experiences that made it such a special place. Those cherished memories are still alive in the minds and hearts of many people.

And don’t forget, b*tches love Justin!

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Leave your favorite Ponterril memory in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41 thoughts on “Ponterril… The dramatic then and now photos!

  1. I have 3 favorite Ponterril Memories…

    One as a soccer player on the Upper lower field to the right…I was about 8…playing for the Astros…We were green and white stripes… I hit a penalty kick with no time on the clock to win the game…then I ate oranges…soooooo many oranges

    Two was at the Reid Middle School 7th grade picnic my best friends and myself played the teachers in Basketball…Im pretty sure we thought we would beat them by 100 and Im pretty sure they schooled us…Rob Colantuono was the original Jason Kidd…guy had no chill

    Third was by the snack area in the summer of the year Green Day hit the streets…pretty sure Marty McDevitt clued me into the Dookie sooner than most people back in the day for which I will forever be greatful…

    Also I remember girls in those one piece speedos that were kind of shiny and that chicks in the 90’s LOVED SUN-IN

  2. Listening to Guns and Roses for the first time. Making out with Desirae in the pavilion. Tormenting that ginger lifeguard everyday. Having friends I actually saw everyday. Being a kid….

  3. i will always remember ponterril, as summer camp. Pull up on busses go to the cabins, catch up with old and new friends. The pool area was an amazing area at least in my memory. Playing wiffle ball behind a huge fence that was your home run, being a high enough swimming level to go off the high dive. We would always camp out on night a session and eat candy all night. So many great amazing memories. Really sad to see those pictures, but a great article!!

  4. I went to the YMCA camp every year, learned how to swim there. From my 8 year old perspective it had the highest diving board in the world!

  5. countless soap fights in the showers with my bros. wondering what girl i would have a crush on for the day and never see again. the bright neon and shiny 90s bathing suits. trying to push myself so fast down the water slide that one time i actually fell off the back onto the concrete(I only broke a knuckle). the simple fact of knowing you were going to have a great day, and as somebody already said.. just being a kid.

  6. I remember always swimming and playing four square. I remember the walks to pontusic lake through he tunnel and we would go canoeing. I also remember it was a cpl years b4 my best friend Alex past away. His mom was our councilor

  7. The last time I went there was for our 7th or 8th grade “end of the year” field trip. I was so excited because the boy I had a crush on was going to be there and be shirtless ALL DAY long! As soon as I went to go swim I stepped on a bumble bee and my foot swelled up to the size of a watermelon. I had to sit on the side of the pool for the rest of the trip. Even just sitting there and watching everyone, I had a blast. Everyone was so happy. I swear I can remember everything about that day like it was yesterday. So sad to see it went to nothing so quickly . Pittsfield needs stuff like that for kids. I so wish we could all make an impact and get great places up and running again, like what ponterril used to be!
    Great article! Thanks for the great read!

  8. I was the Director of Ponterril for i think five yrs.. So many wonderful memories. Still in touch with a few from there. (jess spatz sheila connelly) Now in New Jersey and 68,,,, Retired from PE. Own www,quality-painting.net, but retired from that too. Hope to hear from some of the old timers. Peace

  9. From the age of 5- 12 I played soccer here. It was our home field. It’s where I got my first trophy! It’s where I played my first and last baseball game. It’s where I had my swimming lessons. It’s where I grew up.

    I went to Stearns Elementry School (1996-2004) and at the end of every school year the whole school would go there. We would be jumping in the pool one minute, then next on the tire swings then back to the field to play tug-o-war. So many great memories there! I was lucky to have spent just about every weekend there! It’s sad to see what had become of it.

  10. Many Summer’s spent with my best friend Shannon Gallagher. Just seeing this post takes me right back there. Memories I will cherish forever with the Gallagher family. #tobeyoungagain

  11. Its truly sad that Berkshire county has become a Pit. Corrupt city leadership has driven the area into a massive recession. All there is now is $5 hr jobs and heroin addicts.

  12. Had the honor of directing Ponterril and Camp Sumner from 1986 until 1991. Before moving on to serve with the YMCA in Denver. I remember the big camp fires we would have in the ball fields and of course the great staff and campers. Currently retired from the but serving as the VP of Camping with the Girl Scouts in Seattle WA. Of course there are a few Camp Sumner, Ponterril alums out here. It was a great place to work.

    1. Thanks John! ’86-’91 were some of my favorite years at Ponterril. We had a family membership and we definitely got more than our money’s worth. We got a lifetime of amazing memories! Thank you for your service!!!

  13. Celebrated my 5th birthday here in 1969. Spent every summer there. Stars & Stripes Speedo One Piece Bathing Suit, the kiddie pool, cubbies in the locker room, High Dive!, shuffle board, pavilion, snack bar, sky bars, mallow cups, the slide, basketball court I could go on and on…such a wonderful place.

  14. I had my first life guarding job here, when I was 16. One of my co-workers was bay watch babe hot! We went to grab lunch in her car one day. We were under those pine trees where everyone parks-not a pavement lot, but grass and pine needles, when she shifted into gear. I had never seen a woman drive standard before. 16 Years later, I am still driving standard, and when people ask, I think of her.

  15. Wow…great read. I went to Ponterril from 1969 – 1975 ..I remember standing on the high dive and being so scared to jump but I did it time and time again. The concession stand was a great place to hang with my cousins and friends. Geez so many fine memories but now living in Rochester NY…thanks for the article

  16. I’ve known ponterill was abandoned and in this state for years now. I have a picture of a white caterpillar I took on the ground in the year 2011 when a friend and I drove up there just driving around that summer. I also found a spotted salamander in the pines there. I wish I could have done something more to preserve that place and the wildlife there(by then plans to break ground to build more condos were in place by the new owner of the land). All I feel is sadness when I look back to those days that my children will not have a place that quite compares. I guess there’s bosque but even that holds less sentimental value to me then ponterill(and I had a great birthday party there but..). I was born in 87 so I enjoyed my early years there at ponterill, learning to swim and I don’t even remember swimming in the big pool much so I must have been mostly a little kid there. Most of my memories are bits of blurry pieces. I do remember going there for my cousin’s soccer game when I was a bit older.

  17. Ponterril was great… Unless you were a black kid. My strongest memory is of swimming in the pool and feeling hurt and humiliated when white kids would call me racist names. Thanks for the memories ponterril. Americana can go to hell.

    1. I am sorry to hear that Jean. I would love to chat more about this as I hope that this was not a systemic issue of the place itself. I am disgusted to hear this and hope we can create a more positive and inclusive future. I am the father of a bi-racial child, I don’t really like “bi-racial”, but used it for the sake of convenience here, and I pray that he can grow up in a more progressive environment based on inclusion and love. I am sorry to hear this, but thank you for sharing.

  18. The Y would rent people a portion of the lower soccer field for family picnics at bargain prices. I believe there were grills on the the side along the wood line and the space to roam and explore is still great even though it is grown in. I am anxious to see what comes next for the property and I know the Y likely has some positive plans.

  19. Ponteril was a great part of my childhood in Pittsfield also. Great memories with friends and family there – classic summer fun. I am sad to see the grounds in this condition, but you can never go back to what it once was. I agree – still have my memories of the fun and innocence there

  20. I’m not actually from Pittsfield but still spent a number of summer weekends at Ponterril. They hosted a sober camp out and my mom was in AA so we went for quite a few years. Literally, the best weekends of my entire summer. My friends and I would spend all day at the pool then all night dancing in the pavilion. After hours, we’d roam around looking for boys and hanging out at their sites roasting marshmallows. It makes me sad to see how awful it looks now, but still grateful for the memories.

  21. So sad to see these pictures…I spent a lot of time there when I worked in the child care throughout high school and vacations and summers while in college – late 80’s early 90’s. We also had family picnics there every year

    When did it close down? How come it closed down?

    Scott

    1. I think it closed down about 10 years ago probably a little less. I was a large operation and the world is just a bit different now. People, rules, expectations… This piece is meant to celebrate our memories. I thank the Y and the team at Ponterril for everything they did… They are actually working on installing a huge new solar farm up there that will provide energy to low income folks in the area, actually pay taxes to the city and make money for the Y so sometimes change is good even if we just want to fee like we can visit our memories even if we never do…thanks for reading

  22. I love the memories of Ponterril. I remember T-Ball & Coaches Pitch baseball. I remember kids tapping the ball and running out full swing 3 foot bunts. Inevitably turning them into home runs. Chris Bard was on my team and as an 6 year old. I swear I remember him hitting a ball like 400 feet into the woods. Maybe further! But the memories of Ponterril have me thinking about the name “Ponterril.” What is a Ponterril? Alla Jerry Seinfeld. Who was Ponterril? If I wanted to buy a pound of Ponterril how much would it cost…and do they still make it? If anyone knows please share with me as the information will aid in closing a chapter in my childhood.

  23. I worked the tennis courts thru high school and then when in college I would come home and practice there everyday and play tournaments on the weekend. they were as good a clay court as was in New England. Used to run around the place after playing in the evening. the run went down the road to rte 7, back up passed Merrill Lodge, and then up around the pool. 2 laps was a good run.bunch of hs buddies worked there too. Aronstein, Hayford, Whitehead. Lots of fun. Sarge and then Murchie Bell worked the maintenance and were good guys Bob Horne was director. The place was always an ideal to me. Lots of good folk hang around the tennis shack and talk after playing. good players came out each Saturday am and played and every evening. It was a wonderful facility that was mismanaged and allowed to go to ruin. Walt Mallins lived on the corner and was a fine gentlemen. Doc Brent ran the aquatics and taught swimming at the Y camp in the summer. All good people and a good place for kids to go and hangout. Julie who owned the fruit stand down on the corner sold great subs that went great with a quart of A&W rootbeer from rte. 7.

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