Madeline Free Rilara – 1

Interviewee:  Madeline Free Rilara
Date of birth/age at interview:  unknown, probably 1904 to 1906/approximately 89
Interviewer:  Lance Metz and one unknown man
Interview date:  April 28, 1993
Interview location:  Allentown, probably Rilara home
Interview length:  1 hour, 2 minutes
Time span discussed:  1910 to 1920

Summary:  Madeline’s father, John A. Free, taught her the boating life, explaining the “why” of many tasks. This is a rewarding interview for the researcher and those with the patience to listen to a quite frail voice.


Time markers:
00:00 – details from earlier interview; introduction to boat work with her father from age 6; discussion about levels and locks
05:29 – weigh lock and the weighing process; maximum 100 tons
11:04 – I. M. Church, canal superintendent
11:23 – clothing her father wore to work, her clothing
13:03 – father’s farm in Erwinna, 365 acres, farm animals
13:39 – typical day on the canal, tasks, food; John Crawe, Bickle family
16:43 – Leichliter family of Lambertville and New Hope
17:40 – father built own boat, eventually owned three
18:43 – more about the weigh lock; tug boats
20:05 – monorail at Mauch Chunk to cross river; amusement park
21:21 – her family
22:25 – more on typical day, worked tiller, starting at age 6 until 11
22:40 – needed to walk with mules especially when not loaded, need to detach lines, details of mule hook-ups; mention of Chambers video
26:04 – techniques used while boating, snubbing (slowing the boat by wrapping a rope around a post); only afraid near trains
30:43 – bridge near Parryville over Pohopoco Creek
31:36 – accidents during years on canal
34:15 – more techniques while boating, meals; father was very strong
37:30 – discusses photo of her family; more about her family
43:39 – nighthawk lamps for canal travel in the dark
44:32 – carried coal, limestone; crossed the river at New Hope by cable and poling to the Raritan Canal, both cable and poling;
46:08 – carried cord wood from her father’s farm; most boats carried coal
46:50 – coal yards; unloading coal
49:31 – Bristol basin; towed by tugs to Philadelphia; mules boarded in Bristol
53:25 – pay system; paid on delivery of load
54:23 – loading in Mauch Chunk
56:32 – checking some photos for familiar places
59:41 – contents of the boat cabin

Madeline Free Rilara interview 2

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