The Old Steam Whistle
Growing up along the Merrimack River there was always something exciting going on in the summer. Although we were tempted to swim we were told to never go in the river as for the pollution that swept through from up river cities. The legend was that if you fell in the river you would have to go to the hospital to receive several dozens of shots. Who would want to endure that as a child?
But even though we couldn’t swim in the river there were other things to do. We could fish but not keep the fish. We could take a small skiff for a row being careful not to get caught in the swift current and swept out to sea. We could take a ride on the swing span of the Green Bridge when the bridge tender was in a good mood.
|Postcard: L. Bograd|
We would also watch and listen with amazement at the steam powered S.S. Sabino as she plyed the waters of the river. We would watch her and wait as she would approached the Green Bridge, taking tourists here and there showing them the historical sights. Then our anticipation was satisfied with two long, one short, one long blast of her whistle. This would signal the bridge tender to open the swing span so she could continue up or down river. That was our favorite sound of all the boats in the Merrimack River.
The Sabino did this trip repeatedly during the summers from 1968 to 1974. She was then bought by a group from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut where she continues ferrying tourists here and there. She gave one last blast of her mighty whistle as she headed for the river mouth. We never heard that amazing whistle on the Merrimack River again.
On a brighter note, today’s children do not have to worry about getting dozens of shots at the hospital as the river is much cleaner due to pollution controls up river.