Monday, February 13, 2012

Al Curtis, Mr Jamaica Pond

Al Curtis was one of the bedrock figures of Jamaica Plain, like a long-time shop owner or school teacher, and remembered by many to this day. I think there can be little doubt that he was the last descendant of an original settler of Jamaica Plain to live in the community, which answers a question I've wondered about for a long time. The article transcribed below makes Honey Fitz JFK's uncle, rather than his grandfather. The Globe somehow repeated the error when they copied text from this article for Al's obituary in 1986.

Boston Globe April 11, 1978

The Admiral of the Fleet at Jamaica Pond

"Al Curtis," said Gov. James Michael Curley, "the is Gov. Louie Brann of Maine. He just brought us a present. His conservation staff is giving us 500 trout and landlocked salmon to supplement our stock in Jamaica Pond. Louie brought his tackle and we would like a boat to go out and catch some of those beauties."

"Thanks a million Gov. Brann," replied Al. "They are a welcome addition. But Gov. Curley, does the gentleman from Maine have a Massachusetts fishing license? No? Sorry, I cannot let you have a boat to fish until he gets one."

Outwardly fuming at his Yankee friend's firm stand, but secretly delighted, as he later said, the governor dispatched one of his aides to obtain the license.

Allan Curtis is known to thousands of Bostonians, many of whom had their first fresh water fishing experience in Jamaica Pond and return yearly to enjoy the sport. Al has the concession to rent rowboats there and sell fishing accessories and refreshments. Boats will be available for rent this year starting today.

Curtis was born into a family of concessionaires. his father and uncle opened the first stands to sell favors and refreshments at Franklin park and Castle Island in 1870. On June 12, 1912, Boston Mayor John F.Fitzgerald, President John F. Kennedy's uncle, dedicated the newly built bandstand, pier and concession building at Jamaica Pond. Al's father was the first concessionaire and it has remained in the family since.

The Curtis family settled in Jamaica Plain in 1632. In the eighteenth century, the Curtis farm bordered Jamaica Pond and took in about half of Jamaica Plain. Curtis Hall, the area's municipal building, was named for "one of my better ancestors," Al says.

Jamaica Pond covers 68 acres, its water comes from springs, and it was once a reservoir for the city. The pond is stocked three times a year with brook, brown and rainbow trout and largemouth bass. The largest fish ever caught in the pond was a 19 pound, 6 ounce brown trout. Boston is one of the few major cities in the East which has fresh water fishing within the city limits.

Al has served many celebrities. Presidents Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy have fished the pond; Governors Bradford, Cox and Herter were regular customers. Jack Dempsey, Jack Sharkey, Harry Greb, Eddie Shevlin, Tiger Flowers and Honeyboy Finnegan were a few of the old time fighters who enjoyed the facility. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and many other Red Sox and Braves players were fishing fans.

Curley never missed the opening day and the next day newspapers would have a picture of him triumphantly holding his catch. "Jim was an excellent fisherman," said Al. "Most of the time the fish exhibited was his own catch. But he was not above borrowing one if he did not catch any."

Al, a stocky 5-foot-9 with bushy gray-black hair, is never without a cigar. He is an English High graduate and he started work as a copywriter in the advertising section of the Boston Herald. Later he went with Boston Edison and for years ago retired. He was able to arrange his working hours at night so he could operate the concession.

The next pleasant day, go yourself, or take a couple of the kids and enjoy a few hours fishing or boating. You will also have the privilege of making the acquaintance of Mr. Jamaica Pond, Al Curtis.


  1. Mark, in the second line of the post, you mean descendents, not ancestors.

    1. Yes,descendents.Thats what he said.