New York State's Erie Canal was a construction marvel and stimulated trade throughout the state. It was and continues to be as much a part of The Empire State's history and charm as The Statue Of Liberty and The Empire State Building. My childhood home was located very close to three communities that had the canal at the center, Manlius Center, Kirkville and Chittenango. The canal was not special to me. Frequently when you are in the shadow of a tourist attraction it is barely noticed. Those who study about it in books or see movies with the site as the backdrop appreciate it more. In the 1950's and 1960's there was nothing to attract the eye to the canal. It had been neglected for years and even used as a garbage dump.
A large number of my family lived in Manlius Center and Kirkville. My mother's parents, aunts and uncles, along with her brothers and their families all lived along side of The Erie Canal. As a young child I had fear about the muddy waters. When my father would back our car out from my grandparents home he would be backing out onto the road, with the canal directly behind us. I trusted my dad, but was afraid he might back up too far and we would plunge into the water.
I did have a very frightening mishap when I was playing by the canal on the “tow path.” The house of My Uncle Kenneth and Aunt Lillian was behind me. I do not remember how many other children were there playing, maybe my sisters and several cousins were there. Suddenly my cousin Louie shoved me over the edge and down into the canal! It was a shallow area with lots of trash and seemed so far from the solid ground above me. My cousin knew he was in trouble and ran back home over on the other side of the canal. My Uncle Kenneth came to rescue me. I don't recall anything about how he got me out. I was just so thankful that he did. He had a special nickname for me, that only he used. I was his “Butterball.” Maybe it was because I had round chubby cheeks. I have other fond memories of him with his dog, “Pal”. If I hear the song “I've been working on the railroad” that may remind me of his jobs in that line of work.
The salute to The Erie Canal has a happy ending. Historical preservation groups realized the value of restoring the canal areas. They now have scenic parks with walking and bike trails and Chittenango is the home of The Erie Canal Museum. I have heard that boat tours have also been available.
...”Low bridge, ev'rybody down, for it's low bridge, we're coming to a town! You can always tell your neighbor, you can always tell your pal, If you've ever navigated on The Erie Canal”...
(William S. Allen)
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR,
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE Read more articles by Pam Ford Davis or search for other articles by topic below.