17501. Lockkeepers

Hello! My name is Mr. Overton G. Lowe.
And I am his wife, Mrs. Lowe. Mr. Lowe: When the canal opened to Cumberland a few years ago in 1850, I was appointed the first lockkeeper at lock 56. Mrs. Lowe: That’s just downstream from Sideling Hill Aqueduct. And our house and lock 56 look almost like this one you’re standing in front of right now. Mr. Lowe:Now, being a lockkeeper means that whenever I hear the lockhorn blowing and the baotsmen yelling “Hey Lock!”, its my job to lock their boat through, either up- if they are going to Cumberland, or down- if they are heading to Washington. Now this is my job day and night, every day of the week, Sundays included, March through December, as long as the canal is open and free of ice. Now When I say every day and night, I do need some time to sleep. So sometimes, most of us lockkeepers need a son or an assistant on the job, in case there’s a boat running at night. You just wave your lantern to signal them. Of course, you don’t make a lot of money being a lockkeeper. The company pays me $200 a year. Not too much really. The payboat comes up from Georgetown once a month. But we have a house to live in, like this one, and a plot of land. Mrs. Lowe:And I tend the garden. We grow vegetables to sell to the boatsmen, that gives us a little extra money. We also raise chickens and I bake bread. And I can get flour from the boatsmen. I don’t know too much about most of the other lockkeepers, but I do know all the boatsmen and their families. See them once a week or so. And there’s always a little time to sit and chat and swap stories and get the news from up and down the canal. Mr. Lowe:Mostly about fighting and drinking and accidents. Mrs. Lowe:I suppose it can be a rough place, this canal, but most folks are honest and hard-working but by no means well off.
Mr. Lowe: Well, I ‘m hoping that in a few years I can work my way up in the company to be a superintendent of a section. That would give us a real nice income. Mrs. Lowe:Well I hope so too, dear. [A lock horn blows and the call of “Hey, lock!” is heard] Mr. Lowe: There’s a lock horn! I have to go! Thank you all for listening.