The town of Athol is not only blessed with their bandstand on Uptown
Common, but also has their beloved bandstand in nearby Fish Park built 7 years later in 1919. This particular structure replaced an old one built in 1900 which was taken down after being declared unsafe. Its replacement has stood the test of time as the one in Uptown Common has although almost suffering an ill fate in 1952 when it was condemned and faced total destruction in May of 1980 at a town meeting. This bandstand in Fish Park had been left unused and idle for many years while the bandstand on Uptown Common took center stage and was always refurbished and used often during the warmer months since it is situated right in the heart of the city. At that particular town meeting, the members were faced with large repair costs for the Fish Park Bandstand due to its continued vandalism and voted for its demolition. But by 1982, a "Save the Bandstand,' petition, money and supply donations for professional repairs, a benefit auction, and volunteer labor from the Kiwanis Club, Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts combined to save and restore the town's cherished landmark. So today, it still proudly stands and used extensively during the summer months along still with the one in Uptown Common.
The very first band concert on this bandstand was held on June 16, 1919 and continuous entertainment for the citizens of Athol and visitors has resounded from this structure with only an interruption between when it was condemned until its resurgence. Prior to this, it also ceased oepration in 1934 during a remodeling project.
Fish Park is rich in history also. Sally Fish, a wealthy descendent of the town's pioneer Fish family, lived in a house located behind the Pequoig Hotel in an area named for her - Sally Fish Circle. In 1857, she donated five acres of land, which had formerly been part of her cow pasture, and of which became a playground for the neighborhood children through her generosity. The Athol school district took over this piece of land and gave it to the town's parks department in 1920 when the name was then changed from Lower Common to Fish Park.
In the 1850s, the field was used by the town's roundball (early baseball) teams, and until the 1960s by Athol's many baseball and softball leagues. one who pitched baseball on this field was William "Candy" Cummings, the inventor of the curve ball, who lived in Athol in retirement. Tennis courts were also added in 1920 and 1927 when this game became popular.
The park's most famous visitor was ex-President William Howard Taft who, on June 18, 1919, helped welcome the hometown boys back from World War 1. Fish Park has also been used extensively for circuses, carnivals, Chataugqua tent entertainment, high school baseball and football games, field days, ice hockey by temporary flooding and for countless community events. Fish Park continues to be a favorite recreation spot for children and adults to play in and enjoy the wonderful band concerts on their old bandstand.
INFORMATION SUPPLIED BY:
Dick Chaisson, Athol Town Historian