From Boise to Muncy—Memoirs
Editor’s note-In the Oct. 15, 1953 issue of the Luminary, the first installment of four articles written by then 76-year-old Muncy native Paul Shoemaker recorded his early memories of Muncy. Mr. Shoemaker left Muncy about 1913, but had always maintained a close association through heavy correspondence and avid study of The Luminary through the years.
Although I was born the sixth child on the Biblical St. Paul’s day, I actually remember very little until 1880, when I recall trying to climb up the haymow steps when our big bull, Romeo, saw me and left out a bellow that froze me to the steps. Father, hearing the bull, came running into the barn and rescued me. The bull was about 12 feet away in his stall.
The next outstanding event I remember was the wedding of my cousin, Kate Shoemaker, to Dr. Baldwin at grandmother’s home located on North Main street and Brewer’s alley. This was in 1880. Cousin Kate is still living at Groton, N.Y., at the age of 94, and we exchange letters about every six weeks.
I will review the old canal from the Locks north, with John LeClair as lock tender, north from the locks to the winding bridge and branch to Muncy. The Keystone Paint company plant stood at the intersection of the Main canal and the Muncy branch, the winding bridge crossed over to the Muncy branch, then a few hundred feet of East Reading there was a drawbridge of the Reading Railroad. If there was no train in view the bridge was raised by two men with cranks on a winch. Then it was straightway to Fague and Staufer coal yard.
We kids really had good times on and in the canal, both summer and winter, swimming at the aqueduct which was about 200 feet long across Muncy Creek, 20 feet wide and eight feet deep with a plank floor and sides and a plank walk on the west side. It had a railing to prevent horses from falling off into the creek, some 25 feet below. This was so ideal a place to swim.
The old canal was heaven-sent to us boys and girls. In winter, the canal company would leave the water in until the ice froze about four inches, then they would draw it off and the ice would settle down on the sides to prevent erosion. This left about two feet of water in the bottom, which would freeze over, making ideal skating on both the sides and the bottom. Every night about 50 of us would build a large fire and skate with the girls.
On Saturday we would skate down to the main canal north to the Wide Waters. This is where the boats were repaired. It was about 1,000 feet long and 200 feet wide, making a real skating rink, but it took lots of work to keep the snow shoveled off. It was just west of Sue and Molly Shoemaker’s, also Ashurst woods. Here we would play shinny with a block of wood, or a tin can-if you could find one, as tin cans were very scarce because everyone canned their own fruit and vegetables. Much of the fruit also was dried on the ear, then roasted in the winter.