If you turn to the right after traversing the Jay Street Bridge out of Lock Haven, you enter the province of what was once Lower Lockport.
I was vaguely aware of Lower Lockport as a place that existed, as we had relatives that lived there. In the minds of small children, travel can be an abstract that doesn’t always compute. We get in a car, we sit in the car for a while, we get out of the car, and we are somewhere else. That’s kind of how Lower Lockport felt when I was very young. But then again, so did everywhere else we traveled.
Lower Lockport came into much sharper focus at the age of seven, when I began to study the Art of the Guitar with an immensely patient old gentleman who lived a few doors to the right off the Lockport end of the Jay Street bridge. His name was Leo Caprio. I believe he was a retired band master that had taught in the Jersey Shore school system. Mr. Caprio took in string students as a post-retirement endeavor. He was also a highly accomplished portrait photographer in a time when truly professional photographers were a rare and seldom-seen species. I knew of two such photographers growing up. One was Mr. Caprio and the other was the Express staff photographer, Jack Frey. These days, there is a photographer lurking behind every smart phone…
One curious characteristic Mr. Caprio displayed was his penchant for Chicklet chewing gum. Many, many times during the course of my six years’ worth of guitar lessons, Mr. Caprio would call out to his wife, “Martha, could you bring me a Chicklet?” A few decades later, I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, when he was under the extreme duress of sitting through another haphazardly prepared lesson being butchered by a lackadaisical pupil, Leo Caprio’s recourse was not to take a drink or a pill, but to grind his teeth on a Chicklet. I began to formulate this theory only after setting out on my own path in life, during which I chewed pack after pack of chewing gum. I finally began to understand and appreciate old Mr. Caprio’s dependence on Chicklets.
Topographically, Lower Lockport was a much different place than Upper Lockport. If you notice, where the front and back roads converge at the east end of Upper Lockport, the shale bluff juts out to crowd the road right up against the river bank. This geographical feature pretty much holds true down through where Lower Lockport once laid. There was very little space between the river and the bluff, which crowded the properties into a small space, and the houses were packed much tighter to each other, side to side, which gave Lower Lockport a much more urban, gritty feel, unlike Upper Lockport, whose larger, green lots had a decidedly pastoral flavor. Many of the houses had the shale bluff standing directly out of the back door, and the edge of the road out the front door. What Lower Lockport DID have that Upper Lockport didn’t was an old, lumpy, bumpy, cracked sidewalk. Which added to that gritty, urban feel. River, road, sidewalk, house, shale cliff. Remember that the present path of the lower end of the road is not where the road originally ran. It was much closer to the river until you got down towards the old Village Tavern. The upper third of the road, closest to the bridge, is still in its historic location.
Scott Williams is a former resident of Upper Lockport, and once delivered The Express in Lockport, from Haussener’s Farm down to the Woodward Elementary School … all 125 copies … with help from Keith. Thanks, Keith.