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The Last Survivors

The Last Survivors

Christian Murray-Allen (1924-2021)

Claimed No Time Lapse between Lighting of Match and Flames

Age 18. Lodged at 29 Follen Street, Cambridge, MA. Born 4/28/1924, Glasgow, Scotland.


'Blond-haired [sic] Radcliffe student...' (Boston Post, 3/31/1943). In foursome with companion Ensign Arthur Lee, U.S. Navy (escaped), Radcliffe College classmate Sydney McKenna, and Ensign Alonzo Hearne, U.S.N.R. (both dead). Group seated in northwest corner of cellar Melody Lounge near artificial tree where blaze started. Ordered drinks but never served because of crowd. Left with Ensign Lee for one dance in main dining room. Returned but was not seated when she observed flames.


At Grove manslaughter trials (quote): 'I saw a boy stand up in the corner and strike a match...Immediately a large flame started in a palm tree in the corner. It spread across the ceiling' (Boston Globe, 3/31/1943). Headed up stairs with, '...Mr. Lee, my friend.' Added: 'We were the first people up the stairs from that lounge and we hurried right for the revolving door...' (Boston Post, 3/31/1943). Testified: 'There was no perceptible lapse of time between the lighting of the match by the bus boy who went to fix the light in the corner of the Melody Lounge and the flash of flame and fire in the palm tree when the boy started to fix the light' (Boston Post, 3/31/1943).


Made Grove-related news at October 1943 wilful negligence trial of Boston Fire Dept. Lieut. Francis J. Linney, when shown a summary of her manslaughter trial testimony by Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Frederick T. Doyle: 'Defense Atty. William H. Lewis objected to introduction of the summary...on grounds that it was not the original. From Miss Allen [sic] he drew the admission that she never had seen it prior to today' (Quincy Patriot Ledger, 10/29/1943). From Chateau D'°Ex, Switzerland, with family to U.S. in August 1939 upon outbreak of war. Graduate Northampton School for Girls, Northampton, MA. Graduated Radcliffe in 1944. Enlisted in WRENS (womens branch of United Kingdom's Royal Navy). Was single. Married Cpl. Samuel L. 'Logan' Mayne, U.S. Army (Born 9/12/1919. Died 5/24/1949, suicide plunge from 14th-floor window at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, age 29) in 1945, in Cambridge. Predeceased by first husband. Second husband Hans W. Gerhard (Born 1/09/1929. Living as of 2020), married in 1952, in Fort Worth, TX. Living in Bethesda, MD, as of 2020. Cambridge address above 1838 'Cloverden' house, historic home to Harvard and Radcliffe professors. Parents late Mr. John and Mrs. Christine (Wilson) Murray-Allen.


At the end of 2020, she was one of the last three known Grove fire survivors (along with Robert Shumway and Joyce Spector) and ultimately passed on October 10, 2021. 


Obituary in The Washington Post

Boston Globe life story, Feb. 18, 2022

Scans of Boston Globe life story

Christian Murray-Allen Gerhard

Christian Murray-Allen

Hans Gerhard

Her husband, Hans

Joyce R. Spector (Born in 1924)

Melody Lounge Guest Saw Fire Start and How it Started

Age 18 (age given to papers as 21). 30 Garden Street #2, Boston. Born (as Goldie Rose Spector) on 4/16/1924, in Boston.


Attending course at Fay Secretarial School, Boston, with plans to apply for U.S. Naval Reserve WAVES. Described as, '...a slender little brunette, with dark eyes and an abundance of short curls' (Boston Globe, 11/30). To cellar Melody Lounge about quarter to ten with fiancé Justin Morgan, of Cambridge, MA (dead). First-person interview in 11/30 Boston Globe (quote): '...Someone threw something that hit a bulb in a light on the wall behind us...So this waiter scratched a match to see to screw in the new bulb. And right away the dried grass decorations crackled into flame, right over our heads. We got up, so they could get at the fire...' Ordered upstairs by fiancé while latter stayed behind to help. Clung to new leopardskin muff during blind crawl across main dining room floor in dark. Added: '...I didn't check that with my coat because it had a zipper and I had my purse and my powderpuff in it.' Finally grabbed by someone and thrown to gutter. Stated: '...More people were pulled out and tossed down beside me. Some of them were dead.' After an hour was taken home in a cab by two men.


Told Boston Police on December 1 that a drunk in mixed party of four at next table reached up and unscrewed bulb: 'Q: Did anyone say anything to him about the bulb? A: I told him to put on the light again. Q: What did he say to you? A: He didn't answer.' Second-degree burns to right hand and shoulders, burns to legs, blisters on face, hair singed. Was not hospitalized. One of two survivors featured in Paramount newsreel about blaze (also John Gill). Earned national mention in 12/07/1942 Time magazine account of disaster. To Hollywood, CA, for six months to recuperate following ordeal.


Married a previous boyfriend, Pvt. Robert W. Rosenthal, U.S. Army, of Brookline, MA (Born 7/12/1921. Died as Dr. Robert W. Rosenthal on 8/10/1993, Honolulu, HI, age 72), in December 1943, later divorced. Second husband Richard Mekelburg (Born 2/10/1920. Died 5/26/2004, Mashpee, MA, age 84). Predeceased by second husband. Living as of 2020 as Joyce S. Mekelburg, in Brockton, MA. One of two Grove survivors (also Marshall Cole) to speak at November 2017 75th anniversary observations, her first on-site return since the blaze. Emphasized that the flames began with the match and with no other source. One of two Grove survivors known to join 21st-century social media Facebook (also Enriqueta 'Quita' Brazil). Parents Mr. and Mrs. Mier I. and Anne (Kaminsky) Spector, same address. Father operated Spector's Cleaners, Charlestown, MA. Middle name Rosalind.

Joyce Spector

Joyce Spector

Robert L. Shumway (Born in 1924)

Student at Williston Academy Returned to Find Club Ablaze

Age 18. 24 Hallock Street, Amherst, MA. Born 2/20/1924, in Amherst.


Student at Williston Academy, Easthampton, MA. Known to friends as 'Bob.' Holiday weekend guest of classmate Richard 'Dick' Moulton, age 17, Melrose, MA, uninjured. Boys attended B.C./Holy Cross football game at Fenway Park, later visited Grove. 'Shumway said...that he and Moulton had come out of the crowded night club and had gone back in to find it ablaze' (Springfield Republican, Springfield, MA, 11/30). Managed to escape, but for a time was caught at revolving door. Pair aided in extricating a woman trapped in main entrance. With young Moulton remained all night carrying and covering bodies to be placed in ambulances. Graduate Amherst High School past June ('42 Gold Bug yearbook humor: 'Sentence: Business Manager of Fitzgerald's Brewing Co.'). Was single. Enlisted in U.S. Army on 3/30/1943. After war attended American International College, Springfield, MA. Married former Eleanor C. 'Ellie' Castellini (Born on 3/23/1927. Living as of 2020) in 1950, in North Agawam, MA. Recalled to Springfield Union, 11/27/1959: 'The scene was indescribable but it is still vivid in my mind. It doesn't seem that it happened 17 years ago' (misreported that teens attended club with unnamed dates). Longtime proprietor of Shumway's Dairy Bar, 168 North Pleasant Street, Amherst. Later successful real estate developer. Prominent western Massachusetts amateur golfer. Shared recollections of disaster with this author during compilation of this report, confirmed young pair were seated 'at bar' when blaze broke. Was living (with wife) in Naples, FL, as of 2020. Parents Mr. and Mrs. Earle F. and Vertene E. (Bement) Shumway, same address. Middle name Louis (surname pronounced 'SHUMM-way,' not 'SHOOM-way').

Bob Shumway

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