The Needham Sportsman’s Club of Yesteryear
Part II: 1949-1952
by Ray Capobianco
The Search for a New Pond
During the summer of 1949, the search committee was actively looking for an alternative pond for the club. Looking at a map it is obvious there were few if any small manageable ponds in Needham or the surrounding towns. Through a business and personal relationship, Sharp’s Pond off of Highland Ave. on the eastern side of Needham became available. It is a little difficult for the average person to visualize the pond, not having seen the area during this period, but let’s give it a try.
You are standing on the Highland Ave. bridge over the northbound lane of Rt. 128 (I-95). Facing Rt. 9, the area of interest is on the right, in front of the U-Do-It Electronics store. Rt. 128 was a 2-lane winding road coming from the South Shore terminating at Rt. 9. There was nothing but hardwood forest on either side as far as one could see for almost its entire length. On the immediate left was the New England Sand & Gravel pit (now Muzi Motors and WCVB-TV). On the opposite side of the road was McCullough’s Garage, with a 3+ acre body of water just to the rear called Sharp’s Pond. Access to the pond was via a dirt road off the east bound side of Highland Ave. just beyond the present Gulf Station (which has been there since the 1930s). The pond was surrounded by thick alders making it invisible from either roadway. There was nothing but woods and swale for the ½-mile east to the Charles River except for 2 small cottages along the river's edge. To the west it was all woods or farms as far as you could see. I look with amazement when I drive through the building complex that is there today. I grew up less than a mile from this area and treated it as my own private hunting and fishing preserve.
Someone must have known Gene McCullough real well because he gave the club an open-ended lease for $1/year. It was academic, however, because we all knew that Federal funds had been appropriated, and Rt.128 construction would begin in a couple of years.
Sharp’s Pond was approximately 3 acres, rectangular in shape, fishable from the east and most of the north side. The remaining shore was thick brush and because of this wading was allowed but the drop-off made it difficult. Water depth was 10 maybe 12 feet maximum.
During the fall of 1949 an attempt was made to seine the pond because it was a known warm-water pond loaded with bass, pickerel and trash fish. Although numerous bass 2-5 lbs and pickerel up to 25 inches were collected and dumped into the pond behind the Needham Public Works, it was deemed unsuccessful because of heavy weed growth. After discussions with the State, a decision to use rotenone was approved (once again the power of the club, I think the MDFW did it for nothing). That winter, crews carefully cleared alders for casting locations; the brush was dragged out on the ice, chained together with cement blocks and left to sink providing cover for the fish.
Five springs were revealed by their reluctance to freeze over except at extremely low temperatures. Two of the springs remain to this day and can be seen at either end of U-Do-It’s parking lot.
A small brook that was a mere trickle in the summer came in at the center of the south side. Its origin can be observed today just south of the Highland Ave. bridge, in the wooded area between the north and south bound lanes, going under the road behind the Ground Round (formally Howard Johnson’s). That little brook became a study in fisheries management the first spring. Over the 15-foot stretch where it entered the pond it dropped 6-8 inches, and, varying on any given day, was all of 2-4 inches deep. Gravel had been raked in to keep the water depth to a minimum until someone observed 1 or 2 rainbows swimming on their sides over the gravel. 10-12 trout were retrieved 20-30 yards up the brook and a screen was installed preventing future losses.
A fish log was provided at the parking lot for members to record their catch. This not only helped the other members to know who was catching what, but resulted in the decision to allow keeping 2 fish per day (by any means after July 1). The water temperature got too high for trout survival and there was no fall stocking in those days. In 1951, the pond chairman reported, of the 1,500 fish stocked, 600 were logged as taken; however, in his opinion many more keepers had not been recorded.
The outlet to the pond was a brook leading east to the Charles River (this is still there today combining the 2 springs and the brook mentioned above). Unfortunately the dam controlling the out-flow was poorly constructed and in need of repair. The decision was made after the first spring to totally replace the dam, screen and culvert under the road. One of the members owned the Mathias Construction Co. He provided the heavy equipment and members the labor. It only took a couple of long weekends and it looked identical to our present dam only half as high. Seeing Mattie Mathias was a member in the '50s, I suspect he may also have had something to do with constructing our present dam.
On the Move, Again...
Things remained uneventful through the winter of 1952, when the state recommended that the pond not be stocked the following spring since it would be affected by the upcoming Rt. 128 construction. That same winter I went into the service and was given a 2-yr free membership.
In the next article I will attempt, with a little research and help from some older members, to cover the first few years of the club's tenure at its present location.
Next installment: home sweet home >>