Growing up on the Erie Canal
Historian, Town of Pittsford
I want to tell you about how it felt to a young child growing up almost on top of the canal.
My house wasn't right on it, but the canal certainly was it an important part of my growing up. When I was younger and I lived down across the bridge, I had to walk across that bridge from the time I was five years old, going to kindergarten and back home again. And in fact, we came home for lunch.
The canal was important part of my recreation too, because I learned to fish sitting on the bank of a canal. I could sit on that cement part and dangle my feet over the edge and dangle my stick with a line on it. And we'd catch sunfish. Can you believe little bitty sunfish? Never took him home, just always threw him back in. And that was when I was sometime between five and eight years old.
And then later on, when I was 10 years old, we moved from that house on that end of the canal, up to a house at number 15 State Street. The house was across from what is now the library, it is still there. I had a dear friend who lived in a brick house that has the brick sidewalk in front of it. If ever you walk up and down State Street over there. In the wintertime she and I, and her older brother decided we'd like to play on the ice that was in the canal. We came down from her house to the bank of the canal. They used to drain the water out of the canal so that there wasn't a whole lot of water in it, which was a good thing for me because when I stepped out onto the edge of it, I went through the ice and right down into the canal and yeah, I can still tell you how scared I was. That was an awful feeling. And was it wet and cold. Then I had to walk all the way home on the other side of the bridge and get dry clothes. That was not a lot of fun.
And then I did one of the other terrible things. I swam in the canal and nobody was supposed to swim in the canal because it was so dirty, had terrible things floating in it, and the fish and so forth. It was a dirty, dirty mess, but a lot of boys used to jump from that bridge and into the water in the summer and after school. They were always, always admonished not to do that. The village didn't want them doing that cause they thought they might land on something.
The canal was always a very important part of my life and growing up and I'm terribly proud of the Erie Canal.