“Remembering Norumbega Park
and the Totem Pole Ballroom”
featuring the documentary Return to Norumbega
by Joe Hunter
Thursday, April 27, 2023
In person at Weston Public Library Community Room
Refreshments. All are Welcome
This program will not be taped.
Please come in person to enjoy this delightful presentation.
Take a walk down memory lane in this history of Norumbega Park, located just across the Charles River in Newton. In its heyday, it was one of New England’s prime recreational sites and the home of the famous Totem Pole Ballroom. The documentary film Return to Norumbega is based on the work of the late Bob Pollock, a Norumbega enthusiast who spent more than a decade documenting the park’s rich history and gathering Norumbega photographs and memorabilia.
The April 27 program will feature three park experts: filmmaker Joe Hunter and authors Clara Silverstein and Sara Goldberg, whose recently published book Norumbega Park and Totem Pole Ballroom explores the colorful history of the park through nearly 200 images of vaudeville acts, aerialists, musicians, and rides. The book will be for sale and is also available from the Historic Newton Museum Shop.
One of many “trolley parks” that opened near American cities around the turn of the 20th century, Norumbega Park outlasted much of the competition because of its reputation for cleanliness and family-friendly fun. For 66 years, the park by the Charles River (where the Marriott Hotel is today) hosted canoeing, amusement rides, and explorations through its zoo and gardens. Norumbega Park and the Totem Pole Ballroom illustrates popular trends in the 20th century. Management adapted to changing tastes, over the years offering an assortment of live entertainment, rides, and games. The Totem Pole Ballroom proved prescient for the era of big band music, and brought in new audiences. Many couples who later married went on their first dates there.
From its Grand Opening in 1897 to when the gates closed forever on Labor Day, 1963, the legendary park drew thousands of people from all over New England. By following the journey of Norumbega from its start as a “trolley park” at the end of a streetcar line to its heyday as an escape for young people to explore independence and love, the book presents universal themes of recreation and romance to readers of all ages.