James Brown – 2

Name of interviewee:  James Brown
Date of birth:  Aug. 8, 1900
Interviewer:  Lance Metz, Howard Swope
Interview date:  3/25/1982
Interview location:  Jimmy’s Home, Lansdale, Pa
Interview length:  1 hour
Time span discussed:  1910 to 1930

SUMMARY:   Part 2 of the Jimmy Brown interview immediately followed part one and continues to describe the life of a boatman on the Delaware and Lehigh Canals. Jimmy’s wife joins the conversation near the end.


Time markers:
00:25 – comparison of Hackey boats (built and owned by Hackey Sampson) and Company boats
02:49 – chain dam and chain bridge
04:56 – tow lines
05:08 – techniques to pass boats going in opposite directions
05:47 – amusement park near the chain dam
06:24 – fighting between boatmen to get ahead; Bill and John Staley, Joe Reeve, Bill Leichliter
08:46 – “getting stoned,” stones thrown from bluffs and bridges
09:39 – Charlie Walker stealing chickens near Allentown
14:02 – change of starting point from Mauch Chunk to Laury’s (Laury’s Station); helped avoid dams
15:39 – boatmen’s strike; Joe Reed, Gaddis family
16:39 – taking care of the mules
17:46 – I. M. Church, Company manager
19:27 – drownings in the canal
21:08 – snubbing a boat through a lock (slowing the boat by wrapping a rope around a post)
23:31 – Jimmy answered (racial) slurs with a sense of humor; Jake Henry, stories of breaking a board with his head and climbing a brass pole
27:15 – Denny Scott’s fatal accident in Uhlertown; many accidents on canal
29:07 – night lights, traveling at night if no locks or if locks were open; conch shell to signal
30:12 – Lenny Stone story, drowned mules and ran away; Charlie Morrell hit mule with hatchet
31:53 – Kilpatrick family
33:55 – many boats in 1910, but then a steady decline; Jimmy stopped boating before 1932, too much stoning
35:57 – Irv and Grant Emory; Uhlerstown; Toot Gray
37:05 – hauled coal, soil, sod, and stone, would not carry manure
38:00 – locktender turnover; captains paid by ton; more money if paid by month
40:37 – Jimmy’s father-in-law was an Indian (Native American), uncle worked canal; John Free
43:30 – slurs Jimmy heard on the canal; helping other boatmen
45:09 – rhymes of the boatman; people’s good and bad behavior
48:00 – boatman getting ahead of each other to save time, make more money
48:44 – lay-over in nicer places; Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) difficult place to stay, few facilities
49:20 – locktender’s phones in their homes, would communicate with boatmen
50:27 – Lehigh Canal trips short, Delaware Canal trips long, Delaware mules sturdier
53:45 – Leon Dreyer’s father, family stories
58:15 – dredging coal dirt from the canals and rivers to sell to the power companies
59:24 – coal workers covered in dust, black lung disease

James Brown interview 1.

Tags: , .