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A canal story

Derby resident Thomas Blanchard shares early memories of the Erie Canal in response to canal-related stories in the Jan. 3 issue of NeXt:

"I was born in Champlain in 1932 and at the ripe age of 13 days I was on a house barge in Whitehall. My dad was in charge of a fleet of seven housebarges. They were kept in Whitehall in winter. I only remember bits and pieces of life on the canal. I remember once being on the Hudson River, passing the big ships, thinking they could run right over us without knowing it. The river itself had so much floating on it, you could barely see the water.

"Once on Lake Oswego during a storm, the tug broke loose and we were adrift. Luckily a lake freighter came out of the dark night and we were able to tie up to the side of it to ride out the storm.

"I believe it was early in the shipping season of 1936 we were tied up at the foot of Genesee Street. Our barge had just been unloaded when a storm was spotted coming in. My dad hired some men off the dock to help put hatches on to cover the hole. My dad walked across the hatches to pull the canvas over them. He stepped on a hatch that was put on wrong and it flipped; he fell into the hole and the hatch came down on top of him and crushed his back. He spent many months in the emergency hospital in a full body cast. By the time he got out of the hospital, everything we had in storage, furniture, car, etc. had been sold for lack of payment. We stayed in Western New York for we have nothing to go back to..."

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