Tales From the Old Days

Curlew Pond Memories

My first recollection of Curlew Pond was in 1958. Back in those days, one could go to the Ranger station located in Carver on January 1st and pick a desired lot for the summer. Our first year, we got Lot 13 and my Mom and two sisters spent all of July and August living in a tent. The only water was from a hand pump "down in the Circle" (Lots 1-6). We would save glass Hood gallon jugs and transport the water back to our site in that manner. Bread was delivered 3 times a week from the Bond bread man. Milk, butter and eggs were also delivered in this manner as was block ice and ice cream. A highlight for us kids would be when Mom drove the 5 miles from Curlew to Plymouth center. The road was most one lane dirt until Route 3 came into view.

Lot 13 was on a bluff behind what we called Fisherman's Landing where all the lilly pads and frogs were. As others have noted, no motorboats were allowed and I only recall rowboats, canoes and a few Sunfishes. We were very close to a beach we called Big Sandy. Further in - around Lot 50 was another beach called Little Sandy. Further still - after lots in the 80's, was the private campground called Blueberry Hill. I recall going to a dance there on a Saturday night. I do recall the raft that was maintained by the cabin folks. You could see it as soon as you pulled in to the State Forest section.

As I look back, I am in awe of my Mom having the 3 of us, cooking with a JC Higgins camp stove and playing cards at night to the light of a Coleman. I remember driving to Plymouth and getting "white gas" from an Amoco station to fuel the stove and lantern. Mom would make the most amazing blueberry pancakes on that stove with the berries we picked.

Our family stopped going there in 1961 but resumed in the 70's. The lure of crystal clear water was the major draw. By that time, all the roads had been paved.

One final note - I recall the 5 mile road from the Ranger station (by the fire tower) to Curlew was an incredible adventure. Twisty turns and up and downs that brought our fannies off the car seats. What a great place.

Richard Brake
Richmond, VA


Campsites were scarce at Curlew Ponds State run facility. Nearly every weekday and weekend were booked solid for the summer season. My brother Anthony and his wife Mary would vie for campsites during the summer months. Their ultimate goal was to get a permanent campsite at Mrs. Arthur's; a privately owned property called "Blueberry Hill". This would become a reality some years later for the waiting list at Arthur's was quite long. Anthony and Mary invited my wife Dolly and I to our first camping outing one summer's weekend. We packed our cooler filled with beer, soft drinks and food. The hibachi and charcoals were first loaded into the car. Kathy and Michelle got in the back seat...Curlew Pond here we come!

Upon arriving at the campsite the car was unloaded with all we brought. Dolly took the kids to the pond and was met there by Mary. I remained at the site to prepare the hibachi for an onslaught of food. Cooking on the grill was a joy for m e and I just couldn't wait to start.

Kathy and Michelle were playing around the campsite when out of nowhere dozens of tiny toads engulfed the area. Toads were everywhere and the kids were catching them putting the little critters inside plastic blowup tubes. This was a temporary restraint for they would all escape during the sunset hours. They had fun as we took pictures of this great capture and ultimate release.

It wasn't long after, Mary and Anthony finally got their campsite at Blueberry Hill. The wait was long but well worth it.

We got directions to Blueberry Hill from my brother and off we went. The car was packed as usual and we began to follow a route that would confuse anyone. We turned off the road to a cemetery heading back from were we just came. At the roads end bear left, go under a small bridge, bear right then left, now all we had to do was spot the famous tree painted in blue. After many twists and turns the blue tree appeared. Take that right, go stra i ght be sure to toot your cars horn. Bear right and at the bottom of the road, we were finally there. The site was quite large, canvas roof, completely screened, stove, refrigerator, tables and chairs, couch, beds and all the amenities. Huge stacks of cut wood were piled along the out door fireplace. Lawn chairs abound the surrounding area making a nice cozy place to relax.

Let's go swimming was the order of the day. Kathy and Michelle would bring their inflatable plastic tubes to the pond along with shovels and pails. The beach area was free of any litter and the water was absolutely clear. No motor boats allowed anywhere on the pond thus enabling pristine water. A premier campground with an outdoor basketball court, horseshoe pit and a covered pavilion were just a minute walk from Anthony and Mary's site. Th e girls would swim and try catching small fish with their pails. The fish were too swift and the girls opted to play in the sand instead. Soon everyone was getting hungry, back to the camp—Dad's going to cook! Fire up the hibachi, let's eat! Hamburgers, hot dogs, shish-ka-bobs and more were ready for the grill. After dinner we would all take a walk around the entire grounds and meet our neighbors. We first met Mack Perry and his wife (both are now deceased). I'd have a few beers with Mack along with small talk. We had a true friendship.

Later that evening Anthony would start a fire where we would sit, tell stories, jokes and drink some more. My wife would have one drink to be social; she wasn't a drinking person. After hours of watching the fire go to ambers, it was time for bed. Goodnight, see ya tomorrow. That was our first weekend at Blueberry Hill. There would be many more to come for my wife and I.

During the entire summer we'd go to Curlew Pond every weekend. There was so much to do there, canoe around the pond, fish and of course walk the sandbar. When the water level was low you could walk around most of the pond. Our kids loved the s andbar especially one spot where they could jump off these huge rocks. Upon heading back we would stop at John and Jean Shadley's campsite. Their's was the spot before the State's campground began. Story telling and jokes mixed with fun was an everyday occurrence at the Shadley's. Back to Anthony and Mary's—I'd start the hibachi for another cookout, my summer enjoyment.

One particular afternoon Anthony and I were relaxing in our lawn chairs when we both heard a screeching sound. It was a frog frantically hopping down the road being pursued by a snake. As it turned out the snake won grabbing the poor creature. We caught the snake by its head and released the frog. A happy fellow it was, another day to live. I'll always remember the day Pattie was stung by yellow jackets, their nest was only a few feet from the road. We'll get them later at night when they go to sleep. I poured gasoline down their entranceway, soon a mad dash of bees were making a quick exit from their doomed nest, but to no avail. Just another day and night at Blueberry Hill.

A seasonal ending cookout was about to begin. I brought a cooler filled with lobsters, clams and all the fixins. Long tables were borrowed form the pavilion area to accommodate a dozen people. We chowed down steamed clams and all the lobster you could eat. My youngest daughter, Jennifer, ate only the legs, truly her favorite. She probably ate 80 or more.

A special activity at Blueberry Hill was playing miniature golf. The equipment being a plastic club not to exceed one pound and a plastic golf ball approx. four inches in diameter was all that was needed. The course began on a winding dirt road that circled the campgrounds. You would hit the ball as far and as straight as possible. A one-stroke penalty was added to your total should you stray off course and end up in someone's campsite. The fewest number of strokes would win. It was fun and a good score would be about twelve. A tournament would be held at summer's end and posted matches were held on weekends. As always the younger teenagers would win. Behind Anthony and Mary's was a small dirt road called ~Sdoggie Lane~T. This is were all campers would walk their dogs and do their thing. All dogs were on a leash to keep everything orderly. One night a week free bingo was played at the pavilion. We would go with the girls and each of us would get one card. The winner of any ga me received a quarter. Jennifer won on B-4 and was thrilled, the rest of us never won. To this day number 4 has been Jennifer's lucky number. The July 4th bon-fire was a big event for all, especially the teenagers. All week long firewood was gathered and brought to this large sandy area near the pavilion. All the wood was piled high about seven feet. The men in charge would fuel the wood and set it a fire. The young folks would gather and sit in the sand to watch this huge bon-fire. Soon they would all back up for the heat was so intense. During the wee hours the fire turned to ambers was extinguished.

A great day with the family. Spent, now it was time to go home. Thank you for great memories at Blueberry Hill.

Michael Leo


Just wanted to pass along a compliment on your Curlew Pond site. It's a nice tribute to the little pond and the people who have spent their childhoods/retirements and other special times there.

My family had a cottage on Curlew, across the pond and slightly to the right of the campground. We spent countless nights sitting on the porch, looking out over the water and listening to the strains of music, the gentle swish of canoe paddles and the distant voices of campers.

Maybe the passing years have made memories of our time on Curlew seem a little sweeter and more rosy than they actually were, but I wouldn't change much. As a kid, I had a chance to experience the outdoors and spend time with my family. Nowadays, I know that's pretty rare.

Daniel Halloran - Circa 1956
Daniel Halloran, circa 1956
My dad, Daniel W. Halloran, Jr., owned our cottage, together with my mom (Mary Lou) and my aunt and uncle (Mary and Joe Chepetsky). It had been in the family for years and years before that, and it showed. It was a leaning, ramshackle and rustic little place, but it cleaned up nice, and provided us with a welcome shelter after a long summer day of swimming. Dad and Uncle Joe finally got rid of the outhouse and installed a toilet when I was 8 or 9 years old, I think. It was a cause for celebration, believe me.

We lost dad in April of 2004 to heart failure and other illnesses, but I was able to spend a little time with him before he passed away. During that time, we talked about some of our experiences on Curlew, and he smiled. I mentioned the cottage in his eulogy.

Again, thanks for taking the time to launch/maintain this site. Here's wishing you many more years of great memory-making.


Mark D. Halloran

Retirement is tough! I have been retired for 11 years and I still haven't figured out how to find time to do everything I want to. I haven't located the photos yet but thought I'd send a few words about the "old days". I don't know if I said this to you before, but my time at Curlew was without question THE highlight of my boyhood and youth. My mother's brother built a cabin there in around 1940-41. I don't remember exactly but I was about 6 or so when I started going there so it might have been even 1939.

I went there with my parents very often for weekends and when WW2 started and travel was difficult or impossible we began spending my dad's vacations there. I also spent a lot of time with my uncle and/or some of his cronies (He ran a taxicab service and a gas station in South Weymouth so he had lots of cronies and I think my mother had some concern about her little boy going off fishing with these 40-50 year olds with no family member present.).

At Curlew I learned to swim, to fish, to row a boat (in a boat I "helped" my uncle build) and to love the outdoors. I also picked lots of blueberries that my mother converted into delicious pies.

As I got older there came a time when I could drive myself to the pond and a couple of my high school pals and I were frequently there for some fishing and, as we got older, there was occasionally a girlfriend or 2 for picnicking and swimming. The parents of one of my high school friends had a cabin at Widgeon Pond so that was kind of fun, too. Curlew is, in my opinion, a much nicer pond than Widgeon, but the widgeon is a prettier duck! I guess I'm an old timer now but when I was a kid some of the then old timers referred to the pond as "Clew Pond". Which probably had no meaning and was simply a corruption of Curlew.

We had no electricity until the early to mid 50's and I can't recall that the road from either side were paved at all until after I left. We used kerosene lamps for indoor light, kerosene heater and a kerosene stove for cooking.

Our water came from a well with an old fashioned (hand operated) pitcher pump mounted right on the sink in the cabin. The water was delicious. It was obviously pond water filtered through the sand. My dad once arranged for a sample of the pond water to be tested by the state. The report came back that it was first class (or whatever was the correct term) drinking water. I surely swallowed a lot of it!

Out toilet was an old fashioned outhouse about 100 feet from the cabin. I thought it was great but now, with the perspective of old age, I think my mother was a great sport! About every week or so a man came in a truck with ice, milk, bread and such things. Otherwise it was over the dirt roads to Plymouth.

There were no day visitors or other users of the pond except for the cabin owners until the early to mid-50's (forgive me if my dates are not precise-it's been a while). Then a campground was opened in what we referred to as the "cove". But all the rest is new since I left. During our time there were no motors allowed. I don't know what the rules are now but I hope they are the same.

I don't know who Helen Arthur is but she probably post-dates me. Some orientation. If you start at what one of your photos calls the "cottages beach" and go counterclockwise around the pond, you go through the lilly pads (which were there as long as I can remember) and then back out and start up the pond. The area where the shoreline straightens is where my uncle's cabin was. The last time I was there was about 3 years ago and I found that the cabin had burned as had the one immediately before it.

Webmaster note: I believe that this panorama was taken while standing on the beach in front of where Bob's cabin stood. Note the cement stairs.

Continuing up the shore line, you come to an area where the shore line swings back the other way again and there is (or was) a sandy beach and where a day use and campground area was developed. We referred to this as "the cove". There was a path to the cove through the woods along the shore on which we often walked.

From the cove, there was nothing until the cabin that sits on the point of land almost directly on the opposite end of the pond from the cottages beach. This area was a great wilderness for a 8 or 10 year old to roam in. I also remember a pretty big forest fire there. I can't figure out when it was but would guess that it was when I was about 12 to 14. Then continuing around the pond there were several cabins located on the bluff high above the water. I remember that the son of one of the families was about 6 or so years older than I and really impressed me by being able to swim the length of the pond and back. The best I could do was across the narrow way and back.

Finally, some 50 yards offshore from the corner where the shoreline once again becomes sandy beach, there was a diving platform built and maintained by several of the cabin owners. It consisted of a wooden deck built over 55 gallon drums and it had a platform about 8 feet above the deck with a ladder to it. There was no diving board but it was great fun to dive off the platform.

I'm not sure how much of this is of interest. But for many years Curlew was my favorite place in the "whole World". I'm glad you folks are getting the opportunity to enjoy it but I must say, honestly, that I'm glad that I had the opportunity to know it in the simpler days. I moved to Seattle in 1957 and probably saw the pond only 4 or 5 times since. The last time was about 3 years ago when I drove my mother down to take a last look (she died last April at 95). My uncle died in 1983 but he had long since sold the cabin.

I promise that I'll find the photos. And should anyone have any specific questions, I'll try to answer.

Best regards,
W.R. (Bob) McGrath
Columbus, New Mexico

Barbara Brierly gave me several handwritten pages from long-time campers giving descriptions of life at camp many years ago. I've transcribed these as best I can here. If anyone has additional stories to tell, please send them to me and I'll add them to this page.

We were camping at Fearings II and the word came through that we would only be able to stay 2 weeks and then have to leave. We had floor boards, etc., to try to be comfortable, but it would be a major undertaking to move floor boards every 2 weeks, so some decided to go to Ellis Haven, but we were undecided what to do.

Well out of the blue came Frank Hamilton, and somehow he had made contact with Helen Arthur. She had received word from the state to develop the area adjacent to State Camping Area at Curlew or lose the property. Frank rounded us up and we went over to see Curlew, and it was a dream come true. He had cut stairs out (in ice) down to the water and built a pier calling it "Wakiki Beach".

Well Helen had a contractor bulldoze out a campsite for us and we convinced Bill & Norma Hammond to have a site dug out next to us. We could have been on the water, but the wind and cold weren't good for me. Some preferred to be on the waterfront. Amongst the originals were Pariseaus, and Johnsons and Hamiltons on Mt. Idy, where Charlie Weaver slept (TV comedian). Also on Mt. Idy – the Mills & Wills.

The place soon filled up – to name a few – Richmonds, Conkeys, Wiiks, the "group at ball field".

Helen filled in the ball field which was formerly a swamp, so things were getting more livable. She also built tables, had the Cracker Barrel and she and Lena Kennedy ran it. Mr. Kennedy worked for the phone company and was instrumental in bringing in original telephone poles.

We all enjoyed visiting at campfires at night and we used to have "get togethers" in the winter at different restaurants. Our main laugh of the evening was "Gee you look so different with clothes on." from our old faithful friend, Ethel Dennis.

Remembering also George McPhee and Bill Hammond starting our "little church services" during summer months to keep our faith alive amongst the people and thus we have the Bruce Arthur Memorial Chapel – open to all.

From "old friends" there has never been anything to equal our camping family.

God bless you all!

Special mention to John McCarthy and his family was his devotion and care of Helen Arthur during her illness and to Mr. Dunphy – Also to Ron Wiik and George McPhee – We love you!

Not unlike the pilgrims, a hearty group of campers from State Side Curlew Pond made their "pilgrimage" to Blueberry Hill in 1959, hopeful that they could establish permanent "residence" after having been told that State Side was limiting camping to 2 weeks per site. Helen & Bruce Arthur owned land which they were going to open up to camping. The families that walked over from State Side picked out their locations in this virgin territory and the bulldozer cleared each lot as selected. Those making the trek from Curlew were families of Urho & Silvia Wiik, Wally & Laverne Ekberg and Enie, Mary & Alton Nelson, Leon & Natalie Beulieu, Terry & Marilyn Steel, Bob & Helen Hermanson, Dick & Joan Carlson.

Other groups from Fearings and Barretts joined in. Bill Hammond, George McPhee and Wally Ekberg started a chapel service held each Sunday at 10 am in a clearing on the hill in the pines. Laverne initiated a men's octet who sang each Sunday – Don MacLellan, Edgar Ohmar, Wally Ekberg, Frank Hamilton, George McPhee, Pat Trainer, Bernie Brooks, Hans Christensen. An amplifying system was established at the McPhee site and tapes were played as a call to worship.
[Note from Pat Traynor – Unless there was a "Pat Trainer" camping way back when that I don't know about, I'm pretty sure that this isn't correct. Perhaps my dad, Bob Traynor?]

P Jaff (?) started dances for the youth on Saturday nights. Younger children were dismissed after 8:30 and the teenagers could stay later. Carey sang "Mickey Mouse" to dismiss the younger set.

Once during the summer, Wally cooked bean hole beans. He dug a hole in front of the fireplace, lined it with stones, built a fire to heat the stones, then put in the crock of beans in the hole and covered it with sand. The beans cooked all day – if you put your ear to the ground, you could hear them cooking. At 5 pm, all who wanted to brought a small plate and were served Boy Scout baked beans.

Minstrel shows began with Frank Hamilton director. The raft was brought in to the rec area which served as a stage. Alden personified an excellent interlocketer. (?)

Water ballet led by Sue Smith – Kaleidescope patterns, graceful moves; sand castles by the young people; land and water races.

Many years ago, Wally Monize had name signs and numbers made by the patients at Bridgewater State Hospital. The cost to each camper was one or two packs of cigarettes. Some signs remain today, albeit quite faded.

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