What would reports on poultry and egg prices have in common with a commercial fishery report? The answer has nothing to do with fish eggs.
These two reports were produced over a half-century ago by men from Wilmington. William “Red” Curtin worked for the Boston Traveler newspaper, reporting on the poultry and egg market. Every day, he would check with wholesale dealers in Boston and elsewhere in New England. His work was an influencing factor in dealers setting their prices.
Meanwhile, totally unrelated, John J. O’Brien, working for the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, produced a newsletter called the “Fisheries Products Report.” Known as the “Boston Blue Sheet,” the mimeographed paper could be found in obscure places around the world. O’Brien started working as an office boy in the department in 1937, and by the 1950s, he was the editor of the report, with a staff of six. They worked in an obscure office on Commonwealth Pier in Boston.
The Blue Sheet was filled with statistics on fish landings and prices in Boston and other ports. There were also articles on various topics such as market trends around the world, the Law of the Sea conference, new technology, laboratory reports, and news of foreign fishing operations. The information was of vital interest to everyone in the commercial fishing industry.
When he retired as regional director of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in 1976, he was honored with a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for superior service. The National Marine Fisheries presented him with a special achievement award.
The O’Brien family moved to Adams Street in Wilmington in 1955. John O’Brien died in 1987.
Curtin was a long-time resident of Glen Road, known locally as “Bill.” To the poultrymen of New England, he was known as “Red” Curtin. He served on the Wilmington Finance Committee and was the founder and first president of the Silver Lake Betterment Association. He commuted to Boston from the Silver Lake railroad depot, where a train known as the “Businessman’s Express” would zip riders to Boston in 19 minutes.
Bill Curtin was a leader in the establishment of St. Dorothy’s Parish at Silver Lake and the construction of its church.
He would occasionally travel around New England, speaking to farmers and poultrymen, explaining the ups and downs of turkey, chicken and egg prices. He served as a featured speaker at the Boston Winter Poultry Carnival.
His license plate EGGS was a common sight in Wilmington and Tewksbury, though few understood the background.
When he retired from the Boston Herald-Traveler in 1966, his market report became a private business, eventually turned over to his son. The reports were picked up by newspapers throughout the region, even the New York Times.
Early editions of the Town Crier would occasionally refer to “our New York Times correspondent.” That was a joking reference to Red Curtin by Capt. Larz Neilson, a long-time family friend.
He was a three-decade member of the Wilmington Finance Committee, serving as secretary for six years. After the death of long-time fincom Chairman Herb Barrows, Curtin took the chair for three years. The fincom reviews the town budget every year, and its numbers are used in the town meeting.
Bill Curtin died in 1983.