Madeline Free Rilara – 2

Interviewee:  Madeline Free Rilara
Date of birthage at interview:  unknown, probably 1904 to 1906/approximately 89
Interviewer:  Lance Metz and one unknown man
Interview date:  May 1993
Interview location:  Rilara home
Interview length:  36 minutes
Time span discussed:  1910 to 1920’s

Summary:  In this second of two tapes, Madeline continues her remembrances of life on the canal. This interview also touches on her memories of the Bethlehem Steel mills at night and the noise and lights. Child labor and women on the canal were not unique, but this remains a testament to the hard boating life.


Time markers:
00:00 – list of lock tenders in 1914, trying to elicit memories from Madeline; could remember Oscar Gattis
02:25 – father bought boat from Gaddis, hauled limestone to the kiln, wood, but mostly coal from the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company
04:10 – her family raised Jimmy Brown after Jimmy’s mother died, Jimmy worked on her father’s boats, Jimmy was musician
06:51 – did not like the canal life; sore feet from walking barefoot; afraid of the dark; tiring work
09:05 – friend names along the canal; injuries while working
11:39 – only used section boats (not stiff boats); turnbuckles on the section boats
12:56 – preferred Delaware Canal to Lehigh, easier to navigate
13:40 – silt build-up behind dams and at locks
14:36 – another locktender mentioned; Chambers tape
15:50 – story of someone being hurt at a bridge
16:15 – Jimmy Brown only Black man working canal
17:42 – crossing the river at change bridge, guiding the mules
21:00 – swimmers along the canal and river
22:09 – quality of the canal and river water
22:34 – night impressions of Bethlehem Steel works and Crane Iron Company in Catasauqua
23:28 – learned to swim near Parryville
26:30 – coal yards on the Lehigh; usually took coal farther south along the Delaware
29:30 – shoeing the mules when needed; blacksmiths
31:01 – stores for supplies, Singley’s for boating supplies, Maggie’s store above lock in New Hope
34:15 – memories of her mother who spoke German (and no doubt taught Jimmy Brown to speak it)

Madeline Free Rilara interview 1.

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