Alice Scanlon (letter)

Alice Scanlon, 2008

Dear Mr. Sharps, 

It was so nice to speak with you on Thursday morning--and as it turned out my daughter did not have a scanner so I am enclosing the memorabilia we spoke about. As you can imagine, I am delighted to have this connection with those long ago days.

The photo was take on Lehigh Valley Barge #59 and is probably during the early summer of 1926. My aunt, Mary Hayward is on the left and my mother Alice McGowan is on the right with my cousin Rosemary and myself in the chair. This was during the period when my mother and father moved onto the barge to save money to buy their first home. And indeed they did, we moved to a house in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn in the summer of 1930 but the "Great Depression" and unemployment brought us back to live on the barge in the summer of 1931. And there we lived until the Fall of 1937.

Joseph McGowan, my father, was a barge captain and was responsible for making sure all cargo in the freight hold was stored carefully when loading and when under tow. I well remember him splicing lines to secure the boat to the piers. In later years, he also was captain of a cement barge towing up the East River.

During the time when the barge was tied up at Pier I in the Jersey Central Yards, we would walk up through the yards to church and to the store and in the other direction to the Jersey Central Ferry to Cortlandt Street to go to school at St. Peters--Cedar and Liberty Street.

This was a time of hard work for our parents, there was no running water and heat was provided by a coal stove. Our illumination was a kerosene lamp. The barge had three rooms, two for sleeping and one for eating and relaxing. Water had to be carried from the main pier and sometimes the barge was towed to a central area in the yards for coal and ice. The water was in large barrels on the front deck. During the cold weather at night our mother would heat the flat irons on the stove and wrap them in towels and put them at the foot of the bed to keep us warm. 

When the barges were tied up for any length of time, we played in the freight house, tag, jump rope and roller skated and sometimes we went on the pier and slid down the polished ramps that extended from one upper floor to the lower.

Some of the family names I remember are Augustine, Beard, Canty, Hoppe, Elias, Bullock, Nelder, Kearon, Michelon, Olsen and McGowan (my family). 

I do hope that during the summer, my family and I will be able to visit your Museum. This certainly takes me back in time.

Alice Scanlon