THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Tales from the old-timer
Issue Date: January 31, 2013
Marinette to Norfolk
About 20 years ago I had a chance to be one of three crew members to man an LST (Landing Ship-Tank) on a trip from Marinette to Norfolk, Va. to deliver the ship to the great US Naval Base there. A fleet of 4 LSTs were to make the run. A lady I worked with told me her husband, Bill McGauran, was to be the skipper of one of the ships. Newly built at Marinette Marine, she said I could be part of the adventure of the 4 ships to make the run from Marinette up Lake Michigan to Lake Huron, down to Detroit, then on Lake Huron to Buffalo, NY. From there we went to take the Erie Canal through New York State to the Hudson River, then down the Hudson to New York City, then into the Atlantic Ocean, and south to Norfolk.
The ride from the bay to Lake Michigan was easy, then under the big bridge south to Detroit. From there we took Lake Erie to Buffalo, where we entered the Erie Canal.
New York State invested $7 million to build the 363 mile canal and it was a wise investment. It required 73 locks in order to get through hilly areas. The project was completed in 1825 and linked the Midwest to New York, where people and cargo rode much more cheaply than by railroad.
We passed through 33 locks enroute to the Hudson River at Buffalo and reached New York after a 10-day run. We tied up at the East River and went sightseeing that first night. Early the next morning we started out on the ocean and reached the huge naval base in about 20 hours. A truck and a house trailer furnished us with living accommodations enroute, and it took us about 3 days to get back home in the truck.
I even got to steer the LST for some time on the North Atlantic. We had to stop for repairs to a tire, and spent the night in Richmond, Va. I earned $400 that came in handy when I got home.
The Erie Canal was unforgettable. The homes all along the waterway presented their backyards, and many of them were quite old. How many of our immigrant ancestors rode the canal to the Midwest we will never know, but it was a critical and thriving waterway over the years, moving people and cargo much more cheaply than by rail. Instead of $100 a ton of cargo, it was only $10 a ton on the canal. It stimulated the economy of the Midwest greatly and paid for itself many times over.