Harvey Brant was lockkeeper at Lock 44 for eight years, until the canal shut down in 1924. Unfortunately, wages hadn't risen much since the 19th century, and in 1916, Harvey made only $22.50 a month working on the canal. Not enough to make a living.
To earn some extra money, Harvey rented out canoes and trapped eels in the canal.
"I built a fish pot and put it down on the bottom of the spillway and I caught $400 worth of eels every fall. One night I caught 720! I sold them to the fish man the next morning for $85, and that was real money in those days."
Harvey was also a bit of a middle man, selling bread to the boatmen from Caskey's Bakery.
"I used to sell bread to the boatsmen...and every boatsmen when he'd get inside the lock, he'd hold up four or five fingers - he wanted that many loaves. I bought them for seven cents and sold them for ten cents."
But that wasn't all.
"And I used to sell some hound puppies. I raised dogs. I got as high as $50 for some of my hunting dogs."
In winter time, Harvey found work at W.D. Byron's tannery, half a mile west of lock 44 along the canal
"As soon as they drawed water out of the canal, I'd pick up my old clothes, and go over there and they'd put me to work. I was a leather finisher. I used to finish patent leather."
Yessir, Harvey was one hard-working entrepreneur, and
"Everything went along pretty good" until the flood of 1924. And those flood waters kept rising and rising.
"About an inch or two every hour," flowing into this very lockhouse.
One thing Harvey resolved to save from the flood was the piano he had bought for his daughters.
"I kept putting the piano up on trestles. Finally, I knewI had to get it out of there some way. I got a boat, pretty good sized, and brought it in. I couldn't get it clear into the house, so I tied it up against a yard bench and got some planks and laid them from the steps to the scow. Four of us got in there in water above our knees and carried it out and put it n these planks and got in this scow and hauled it away. I never took it back after that. Trying to move it around in those high waters, I was just disgusted with it."
And Harvey remembered this about the canal,
"It was kept up beautiful. The canal was beautiful."
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