A new name for "Jew Pond?"
I’ve been living in New Hampshire for more than a year now, but until recently, I’d never heard of Mont Vernon, N.H. When the small, rural town made its way into national headlines this week, it wasn’t for positive reasons: This week, controversy arose surrounding the name of a Mont Vernon skating and fishing pond, which has long been referred to as Jew Pond. Yep, you read that right: Jew Pond.
Rumblings about the pond’s name began making their way throughout Mont Vernon when a bold headline reading “Jew Pond remains closed” appeared in a Nashua Telegraph article; many say it was the first time they learned of the pond’s official name. Still, the story didn’t gain national traction until January, when Katelyn Dobbs, a student at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, created a short documentary on its history.
The documentary includes an interview with Mont Vernon health Officer Rich Masters, who first learned the name of the pond when he moved to town and picked up a 1968 map. Upon this discovery, Masters spearheaded efforts to change the pond’s name. He met some resistance from local, especially longtime Mont Vernon residents who said they wanted to keep the name Jew Pond for the sake of history – despite the fact that the pond’s name likely stems from the fact that Jews were banned from a hotel and golf course on the pond’s property. Two Jewish attorneys later bought the pond with the intention of making it available to Jewish residents; though they intended to rename it Lake Serene, they never followed through with plans to develop the area.
Though the name might seem quite obviously offensive to the politically correct (and Jewish!) among us, not everyone saw it that way. Mont Vernon resident Lawrence Rondo, for one, didn’t think the name needed to be changed: "Changing it is stupid. People just like to stir up trouble," he told the Associated Press, and his wife, Annette, added “People are too sensitive today."
Luckily, the majority of concerned Mont Vernon citizens disagree with the Rondos. Even Katelyn Dobbs, who chose to remain objective in producing her documentary, believes the name should be changed. She told the Boston Globe, "I'm Catholic. But I believe as Americans, we should all try to care for one another. I was surprised to learn that Jewish people couldn't stay at the Grand Hotel. So that was really shocking to me, to discover that that happened in America."
At a town meeting on Tuesday evening, residents in attendance voted 104-33 to allow the local board of selectmen to request that the U.S. Board of Geographic Names change the name of Jew Pond. No new name has yet been chosen, but there has been talk of returning to past monikers, including Lake Serene, Spring Pond, or Carleton Pond.
Because the name “Jew Pond” hasn’t been used on signs or recent maps, it’s entirely possible that the impending name change will have little effect on colloquial references to the body of water. Here’s hoping, though, that following Tuesday’s vote, Jew Pond goes the way of the areas formerly know as Jap Valley, CA, and Swastika, Ontario – renamed for good and forever.