William Wentz

Name of interviewee:  William Wentz
Date of birth/age at interview:  1907/76
Interviewer:  Lance Metz
Interview date:  February 7, 1984
Interview location:  Wentz home, North Leighton, PA
Interview length:  1 hour 3 minutes
Time span discussed:  1916 to 1923

Summary:  This interview covers many of the details of canal boating life from the point of view of a boy of 9 to 16 years old, who worked on the canal from 1916 to 1923.


Time markers:
00:00:00 – introduction;, born in Carbon County, PA, in 1907; started going to (Lehigh) lock #9 (below Weissport) at age 9, Billy Dreyer hired to drive mules, homesick on first trip; Billy Schaeffer hired second year; section boats
00:03:50 – always carried coal; earned $1/day, originally from Coalport (two miles north of Mauch Chunk), later from Siegfried (Laury’s Station); preferred to steer the boat, no shoes
00:05:24 – food on boat
00:06:09 – Billy Schaeffer used boat #290, hard worker, no problems; tillers, unhinging boats
00:08:27 – mules, feeding; Weissport company store, Mrs. Fisher
00:10:54 – 15 to 20 boats on canal each day, preferred the Delaware Canal, longer levels (sections without locks)
00:12:07 – locktenders
00:12:45 – hotels, drinking alcohol, Asa Swank, I. M. Church (canal superintendent)
00:13:55 – average day; about 16 hours Coalport to Bethlehem
00:16:14 – one summer on Delaware Canal; Hackey Boats, Pt. Pleasant; Bristol, fishing for eels
00:21:07 – quite school at 16, worked as mason with father; helped unload coal
00:23:38 – Coalport closed after flood
00:25:20 – Pennsylvania Dutch spoken by boatmen; north-bound boats right of way
00:27:24 – boating April until ice on canal; boats parked in winter, some lived on boats all winter, Fink brothers
00:29:30 – two bunks in cabin, straw-tick mattresses, nails for clothes; springs for drinking water
00:33:08 – caring for towlines, splicing; snubbing through lock (slowing the boat by wrapping a rope around a post)
00:35:33 – Hackey boats vs. company boats; boat #290
00:36:26 – some coal in hidden section of boat, sold for 25 cents a 40/50 lb. bag
00:38:40 – C.K. Williams coal yard in Easton, NCM housed in the building
00:41:03 – trip from Coalport
00:44:18 – good life on canal, healthy
00:46:31 –boat building
00:48:15 – mules, flies, boat set up, construction materials
00:51:40 – no shoes, sore feet, poison ivy; bathing on the boat
00:53:44 – canal drained in winter, repair locks and canal
00:55:36 – Delaware River, tugs pulling boats from Bristol to Philadelphia frightening
00:57:26 – boat weighting techniques
00:59:39 – ending at night, boarding mules, conch shell, favorite place near Freemansburg

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