James Brown – 1

Name of interviewee:  James Brown
Date of birth/age at interview:  August 8, 1900/81
Interviewer:  Lance Metz, Howard Swope
Interview date:  May 25, 1982
Interview location:  Brown home, Lansdale, PA
Interview length:  1 hour
Time span discussed: 1900 to 1930

Summary:  Jimmy Brown gives us detailed descriptions of canal life and the differences between canal runs (Lehigh, Delaware, Raritan, Morris) and his preferences. His stories of every day episodes bring lively color to the canal-boating life.


Time markers:
00:00 – introduction, family background
02:03 – interest in canal starting at 8-9 years old; did not like school; left home and never returned
04:25 – Schuylkill Elliott his first captain; stiff boats and section boats; captain in fatal accident at Rabbit Run Bridge
06:12 – bought mules
07:13 – working with John Free, Charlie Cole, Ray Dye, and Bill Staley; Pt. Pleasant farm experience
09:11 – wintering on the boat, the cabin; Bill Leichliter
13:01 – Salty Black; Jimmy saved Black’s from drowning
14:50 – meeting Howard Swope
15:45 – boating on the Morris Canal; Morris harder because of (inclined) planes-short railways that carried canal boats in open cars uphill and downhill using water-powered winches
19:30 – alcohol boatmen drank, beer, canned heat, rubbing alcohol
21:51 – food on the boats
24:15 – Jimmy’s family
26:58 – getting his own boat at about age 15
28:05 – clothes he wore; more about mules
30:21 – running with Salty Black
31:29 – unloading the boats
33:26 – boating on the Raritan; crossing the Delaware at New Hope by cable
36:08 – trips on the Delaware River, tugs pulled 4-20 boats down river from Bristol; Chesapeake and Delaware Canal
38:20 – story of one of his boats sinking
46:27 – Howard Swope boated mostly out of Bridgeton, boated on the Delaware
47:29 – episode below New Hope where a boat sinks; unloading at the New Hope Paper Mill; working with Charlie Morrell
50:48 – mules; discussion of the technical aspects of the types of mule rigs, blocks better
55:24 – Jimmy liked the Delaware Canal better than the Lehigh, longer sections between locks; discussion of locks
56:57 – Pennsylvania Dutch spoken by many Lehigh boatmen
58:50 – sings an Irish song; accepted as a black man

James Brown interview 2.

Tags: , , , , .