Morris Canal Memories (Lock St. Area)
As told by Frank Vargo to Maryann S. Ignatz ( Frank Vargo age 83 at the time of the interview)
Frank was born on Lock Street in 1919.
Frank remembered watching the older children and adults ice skate on the Morris Canal under electric lights. There was an electric sub station there on Lock St. which later moved to near the present middle school. It was enclosed with a fence on Lock St. but somehow the older children turned the switch on, possibly with a long stick. All skated at night under the electric lights until it was turned in and they (the authorities) came down and shut it off. Frank was young so he was on the ice with his sled.
Frank remembered ice harvesting:
It was cut to sample thickness (to see if it was ready for harvesting).
A conveyor powered by a gas engine was used from bank to wagon as the ice was hauled away from between the two locks.
About the route of the canal:
Frank talked about a viaduct near our present disposal plant. This was a creek bridge but like a railroad tunnel. The canal flowed over the creek which flowed through the tunnel. The canal was on one level above the creek. The tunnel was made out of stone. Where the present bridge to the Disposal Plant is today there was an overflow from the canal to Lopatcong Creek. Lopatcong Creek & the Morris Canal merged at Lock and South Main near the present sandwich shop. The Morris Canal bed is now Lock Street. The previously existing old road was given to the property owners when the canal was filled in. The old road was in front of Springcrest Beverage around to the left, behind the stone house.
About the Towpath:
Couples used to walk alongside the canal on the towpath with a box camera. Frank’s mother had beautiful roses and a fellow would ask permission to pick a rose for his girl friend as they strolled along the canal – romantic!
Frank used to take a canal ride from Plane #11 to Plane #10 where Springcrest Beverage was located. This is near the present sandwich shop.
On Lock Street before getting to the locks on the right side was a wider space, a boat basin, to lay over or store boats over the winter.
A stable for mules was by Springcrest Beverage (Stone House).
Lock House – 1st house back of sandwich shop – right hand side.
Peter Lenstrohm of #10 plane – would blow conch horn.
About #10 plane:
Frank watched the boats pulled by a cable car (cradle car). It had an iron carriage on wheels that rolled on tracks. This cable car stayed in the water either at the top or bottom depending on which way a boat was coming.
Boats went over the plane on the cable car (cradle car).
A stone tower was along the side of the inclined plane, (going east on the left of inclined plane). Water from the upper level was used to turn the turbine which then pulled the boats up the incline and over the top. When back into the water they were floated free. The spent water went out of the tower and into Lopatcong Creek. Ducks and Geese were plentiful on the Morris Canal. The Canal was drained in 1924.
There were no guard rails along the locks and 2 guys on a motorcycle (from Hungary) drove into the canal bed. Later after it was drained the canal bed started to get filled in with garbage and ashes.
When the bridge was built, (Lock & South Main) and also the dam by Agway, the workers were housed in the Locktender’s House – 1st house on the right after crossing the bridge.
After the canal was drained from the iron bridge to the feed mill, many springs in the area fed into the canal bed down to Springcrest Beverage which was formerly Hutnick’s. Springs were located at the iron bridge, the Paulus farm, the lock house, Hutnicks (a pond by the stone house drained a 50 ft. wide springhouse). Also near the sandwich shop, near a row of homes, and near the feedmill. At the feedmill the little spring house is still standing.
A Mr. Kalnas from Lock Street had a butcher wagon.
Maryann S. Ignaz
Edited by James Lee Jr.