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Waterloo, NY and the Erie Canal

I moved on to Waterloo, NY next to experience the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario, Fort Sampson Training Center museums, and the National Women’s Rights Museum in Seneca Falls. Little did I know that this is also The Erie Canal Historic area so I hit a major homerun with this choice. Ha ha! I bet you thought I actually planned all these travels super well. Nope. I travel by whim and mood. 🙂

I stayed at Waterloo Harbor Campground. It is very small with only 22 sites but it has full utilities, was inexpensive as a Passport America park, very nice staff, a laundry room I sure needed, nice enough bathhouse, and a small connecting canal for resident boats. It is also in a great location for sightseeing. Not much of a view like camping at the state parks gets but who needs it when you are sightseeing and the state parks don’t have full utilities.

I hit up the Women’s Rights museum first. It was far more educational than I expected. I had no idea I was banned from the best colleges in the country (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton) the day I was born and on through high school solely because of my gender. I served my country just as well as any man while still not a full citizen. I knew I was not allowed to play Little League growing up and that I was required to wear a dress to school (I even got sent home once for wearing culottes, shorts with a skirt covering). Still, the museum was an eye opener.

The first conference on women’s rights was held there in Seneca Falls in 1848. It was triggered by 2 women who were staunch abolitionists like their husbands who had been sent to an international conference on slavery overseas. The first day of the conference, the women in attendance were as vocal as the men which did not sit well with many of the men who were on the receiving end of their fiery discourses. The men felt they were disruptive and spent the next day deciding how to best handle the women. Rather than outright banning them, it was decided the women could stay but at the back of the gallery with their mouths shut. This so angered the 2 women that upon returning home, they discussed it with others and decided it was time to fight for their own rights. At that time, women were banned from most colleges, many social and political gatherings, juries, land ownership, good jobs, and much more. A husband was her master and a woman was only a husband away from poverty at any time.

This was also the time of bloomers. Far more comfortable and sensible than the current dress fashions, women in the movement began wearing them but found themselves heckled and ridiculed both in public and the newspapers. They had to abandon bloomers to keep what they were wearing from detracting from their message.

I am glad to see so many women traveling around the country today in RVs alone. Much has improved over time and women themselves have become more self-sufficient and independent.

Discovering that the Erie Canal was all around me, I drove into Syracuse to the Erie Canal museum and Erie Canal Park. I had thought that the Erie Canal was still in full operation however it is not. When railroads came along, they put most of the canal out of business. To pay back the cost of building the canal, tolls were charged based on freight weight of the boats at the beginning. Each boat was weighed at the beginning of the season and then that weight was deducted from the full weight with freight to determine tolls to be paid during trips along the canal. The cost was quickly recovered and for the first time and probably the last, the government actually canceled a tax as promised. It was hoped this would allow the canal to compete with railroads for business but it failed. Only 3 parts of the canal are still in operation. During upgrades to widen the canal, much of it was rerouted or abandoned with many businesses, boats, and houseboats also abandoned in back waterways. Many of the locks were removed and you can see the remains of one right alongside the interstate I90.

Today’s Erie Canal is a wonderful playground and lifestyle for those who live on or visit by houseboat. Villages have added facilities, much of them free, along the canal docks for boaters which include tie ups, pumpout stations, bathhouses, and electrical hookups. Restaurants are well placed nearby.

You can rent a houseboat for around $2,000 a week and cruise at your own pace through the locks from village to village. Note: In Pennsylvania small towns are known as townships but in New York they are called villages. 2 bicycles are provided on top of the boat for touring villages and gas for the boat is included.

I also took time to go see the museum at Fort Sampson Training Center in Sampson State Park. I haven’t seen a training center since I trained for the Air Force at Lackland AFB in Texas a very long time ago. Sampson was actually used by the Navy, Air Force, and Army at various times as needed. It was also used after the wars as a processing center to usher people out of the service.

During the Korean War, the Air Force got so many enlistees that they had to turn to Sampson to train many of them when Lackland AFB training center became full.

The Navy recruits not only had to learn all things Navy, they also had to learn to row a boat and swim. That seems like a lot of pressure to me. I liked the Navy portion of the museum best though because it has a lot of hands on. You can ring the alarm, learn to tie proper knots, use a real signal flasher, and handle the engine room signaler on the bridge. All back one third. Full steam ahead. You can also tour the brig, something I never (thank goodness) got to see before. It is a metal cage divided into cells within one large concrete room. One brig resident got there by being AWOL to see a girl. She later became his wife so I guess it was worth it. 😉

I learned a bit there. The reason they call new recruits “boots” is because in the old days, they had to wear canvas leggings during training to make it obvious to everyone that they were trainees. That of course explains the term “boot camp”. I also found out that Kilroy really was here! James Kilroy worked in a shipyard and was a rivet inspector. His job was to inspect the quality and note the number of rivets in chalk that each worker did as they were paid by the rivet. Some workers tried to cheat by erasing his mark after it was counted so that the next inspector would note the number again thus they would get paid twice the number they had done. Kilroy put a stop to it by writing “Kilroy was here” on the work pieces in a manner not easily erased. While normally a ship would be painted before it left the yards, during the war ships were desperately needed and sent out before being painted so that sailors and soldiers everywhere saw “Kilroy was here” and got such a kick out of the mystery man that they began writing it many other places.

For more pics click here.

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