Friday, April 27, 2012

Dad and the River

Dad and his canoe
It's hard to believe, but my Dad, John Thomas Jones, died 34 years ago.  He was only 57 years old.  So I write this at such a disadvantage.

Ramp from behind school to river

We know Dad LOVED the river.  After all, from the time he was nine years old, he lived in a house directly across the street from the river.  It was in full view.  The property for his school, Highlands Elementary, backed up all of the way to the bank of the river. In fact, a couple of decades ago his former school housed an "Inland Waterways" vocational program for high school students who learned the skills necessary to work on the river on barges, tows, etc.  They trained on a barge called the Marilyn McFarland that was moored just behind the school. Every graduate had a job waiting.

Tow and barge from behind St. Rose Church with northern Kentucky in the background
It's hard to imagine the river he knew as a child.  The river is so different today. One of the main differences is that the river pool stage is double what it was then.  During the summer, the river often became too shallow to support navigation.  I remember Dad taking us down to look at a "wicket dam" just before it was to be removed.  (I checked -- the last wicket dam was removed in 1963.  I was in the 8th Grade). Two new dams were opened, Meldahl and Markland, effectively creating a 95 mile navigational reservoir with a much deeper pool stage.

I also remember that Dad was completely intrigued with the river when it flooded.  I still remember being terrified when we drove down to the river's edge to check out a flood.  I was absolutely convinced that the emergency brake on the car would not hold and that we were going to be swept away in the rushing water.

When Dad was a boy, the river was his playground.  He used to talk about taking his canoe out into the river and riding the "rollers" churned up by the passing steamboats and tugboats.  Based on the previous post, I can just imagine that he was afforded a lot of opportunity to do this because of the multiple trips made back and forth to Coney Island each day during the summer.

Dad's canoe was a casualty of becoming a "family man."  When he and Mom were married, he sold his canoe in order to enable her to buy a sewing machine.  Despite his new priorities, his love for the river was not diminished -- just postponed.


  1. A wonderful photo of your dad in the water with his canoe. One of those dreamy sepia photos. Your write up makes him sound like an interesting person to have for a father.

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