Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Communities

September 9, 2013

Western New York revisited

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Not to be deterred, we all piled into the old Hise family Packard, and with one of the boys driving, were taken to where we could go swimming. That was over 65 years ago, and since that evening, I have frequently tried to understand exactly where I was, and what kind of a structure I recalled diving from. I knew that it was on the Erie Canal, and that it was some kind of a gate, but I also knew that the gates were in Lockport, and we were way out in the country.

In the semi-darkness, we made our way down to the cement platform of this towering gate, and dove into water somewhere below that we could barely make out from flickering lanterns. The dive was much higher than I would have probably dared in the daylight, and I still recall going so deep that when I rolled over, I did not know which way was up. I knew enough to roll up in a ball until I felt myself floating toward the surface, and then kicked my way up, with very little air to spare.

I don’t think that we swam for very long, but the experience has been locked in my memory for over 65 years.

Leaving Lockport on Aug. 4, still excited over having found the building where my dad bought his 1939 Buick, Dan took us out along the canal, and told us that he wanted to show us an unusual gate that is only used for flood control or to lower the water so that they can remove debris. All of a sudden, there was “my gate,” rising into the air just as the memory of a 13-year-old boy had saved it. The water level is higher than I remember it from when I dove off of that cement foundation in 1947, but Dan says that is altogether possible.

So the Chase family Christmas in the summer of 2013 will forever be remembered by this 79-year-old as the year that my memories were confirmed.

Bill Holman, native Western New Yorker, now lives in Madison, Wisc. Correspond with him at wghmch@chorus.net.

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