Thomaston's senior citizens observed the beginning of the end Monday as the catfish pond on Highway 19 North closed for good. For the past thirty plus years, the pond has traditionally opened on the 3rd Saturday in May with the annual Kids Fishing Derby, and would be open to citizens age 50 and over and disabled citizens three days a week for the remainder of the summer.
Former Presbyterian Church pastor Bill Conine and Albert Edmonson, who managed the water facilities for B. F. Goodrich, were on hand Monday to receive special recognition for the parts they played in making the pond a reality. “When I came to Thomaston in 1965 to be the pastor of the Presbyterian Church, the pond area was just a big old hole in the ground. Later somebody planted a garden in it. One day I got to thinking about how nice it would be for the pond to be filled with water and stocked with catfish so the senior citizens and children of this community would have a place to fish,” said Mr. Conine, who now lives near Pine Mountain. “We wrote letters to B. F. Goodrich to get approval, and the late Foy Gilbert gave us the first 5,000 fish to get started,” he added.
Mr. Edmonson, who has been retired from Goodrich for about 20 years, was instrumental in getting the pond filled with water for the first year.” Goodrich ran a water line to fill the pond and maintain it. Marvin Adams (former state representative) worked with the Department of Natural Resources to help us get more fish. People just seemed to cooperate. I think it's been something that has been good for the community,” Edmonson said.
Conine remembers the first day the pond opened, “We put out 180 stakes for the first day to mark fishing spots. We had 275 people to show up. We put 260 people in there at one time. I remember one man telling me that he never did fish that day; he just visited. That is what this pond has been about”.
After maintaining the pond virtually by themselves for years, along with another Thomaston resident, W.H. Streetman, they turned the day to day operations over to the Thomaston-Upson Recreation Department in the mid 1980's. “We had other people who helped us with it, but we eventually went to the city and asked them to take it over,” Edmonson said.
Through the years, several individuals and businesses have donated items to be given away at the end of the season. This year was no exception. It has been somewhat of a tradition that Upson Propane give a fish cooker away in a drawing each year. Other businesses, such as Northside Pawn and Tackle, 19 South Bait and Tackle, Upson EMC, United Bank, Colony Bank, Flint River Technical College, and Bank of Upson have all contributed gifts and prizes.
Although the pond has now been closed, come spring the citizens of Thomaston and Upson County will not have to go far to find another fishing hole. There is another pond behind the existing one, and it is in the process of being refurbished in order to keep the fishing tradition alive. “We are working on the other pond now. We will soon restock it, and we should have a good supply of fish by the time the new pond opens on May 20th of 2006,” said Recreation Director Mindy Daniel.
“We are excited about the new pond,” said Joe White, who could be found fishing at the old one most any summer evening that it was open. “Mr. Conine and Mr. Edmonson should really be commended for getting this pond opened in the beginning. When you are fishing, you can forget all of your troubles,” he added with that patented smile.
Nobody knows exactly how many fish have been taken out of the pond over the years, but for every fish taken, there is a story. And, the biggest story of all is about two men who had the forethought and energy to help create a landmark this community has enjoyed for a generation. Now its time has come and gone, but next year will bring a new landmark and hopefully another generation of fish stories.