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History

Little is known about Club history from those early days. We are constantly on the lookout for photographs and stories from peoples' grand parents. One old photograph recently published in an article about us in Travel and Leisure Magazine (article titled "Cold Rush" December 2003) confirms that the Club was very much active in 1947. The Brooklyn Public LIbrary has a number of photographs of the Club from the 1970s. Go to www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org and search for 'polar bear' in the Irving I. Herzberg Photograph Collection.

A particularly beloved president of the Club, Al Mottola, since passed away, was a charismatic figure and is still very much in our memory. Joining the Club in 1955, Al believed the cold water to be a cure for every disease known to humanity. It was Al who, we believe, began the tradition of blowing a conch shell to summon the Bears into the water, a tradition recently revived by our current president, Louie Scarcella. As recently as the 80's, when the Club met under the boardwalk in a lifeguard station off of Stillwell Avenue with the permission of the Parks Department (before a beach reclamation project buried it) it was not uncommon to find Al and the "old timers" of that era playing a portable organ, singing songs. Below, Al poses with a high school group after leading them into the frigid Atlantic, winter 1988.




Another notable member, now deceased, was Pablo, who seemed to defy medical science with his ability to spend unconscionably long periods of time in the frigid brine and he never missed an opportunity to stand on his head in a snow bank. Pablo's last request was to have his remains carried down to the Coney Island shore for his friends to bid him farewell.


© Coney Island Polar Bear Club