Arts & Entertainment

Olean Library Speaker Shares Erie Canal Lore

Gretchen Murray Sepik, in the guise of Erie Canal Sal, tells folk stories about the early years of "Clinton's Big Ditch." Credits: Caleb McGuire

OLEAN, NY – The crowd that gathered Wednesday inside the Olean Public Library was on board as storyteller Gretchen Murray Sepik led them down an informational stream of Erie Canal tales.

In the guise of “Erie Canal Sal,” Sepik took the crowd on an educational and often comical journey, describing what life was like aboard a canal boat from Rochester to Albany in the 1830s.

Sal, as Sepik told the crowd, was an older Irish woman and an immigrant who had seen many years aboard boats. She had countless tales to tell.

Sign Up for E-News

Sal was easily picked out of a crowd because she was missing a front tooth and she had a messy appearance. Sepik let the crowd know that tooth hadn’t rotted but that its absence served as testament to Sal’s short temper. And she told the crowd about the extra hot day on the deck when the captain of the boat behind them had too many words for Sal’s liking. After the two boats got tied up behind one of the locks, she and a few other crew members decided to put an end to the talking and she let her “Irish temper” burst out in the form of flying fists. Sal swore she got the better of the lippy men, though her bumps and bruises might have lead onlookers to believe otherwise.

The program was quite interactive, with Sepik casting audience members in roles to fit her stories. Most memorably she decided I should play the part of “Crazy John” and asked me to lead a chorus about how he often put his long johns on the wrong way.

The youngest member of the audience, Hannah McAdam, often laughed heartily during the production.

“I really liked the program,” said the 8-year-old when the show was over. “I'd like to see more of these around Olean.”

Hannah seemed to learn as much as she laughed, reporting after the show that “the Erie Canal was 363 miles long and had 83 locks.”

Other members of the audience shared Hannah’s enthusiasm.

“I thought it was very entertaining, very informative, and quite humorous,” said Dan Haines of Olean.

Sepik said she has seen a decrease in work for hire in recent years, but that doesn't take away from how much she loves what she does.

“I play dress up for a living,” she said. “It doesn't get much better than that.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Greater Olean

'March for Our Lives' Started A Historic Movement

Shoes on the ground. People chanting. Signs held high. Music playing in the background.

It is the start of a historic movement. A moment when every race, gender and age came together as one. A movement that involved change and a March for Our Lives.

As a student journalist going out to the world, taking part in a national movement truly moved me. Reporting the significance of March for ...

Bonnies Historic Season Will Give Community Source of Pride Years to Come

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY -- The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball season came to an end earlier than the team had hoped. Coaches looked disappointed, and players covered their faces with towels. St. Bonaventure’s (26-8) loss to Florida (21-12) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament left many thinking what if?

However, the Bonnies historic season is nothing for the team to ...

Sights and Sounds: The First Four of the NCAA Tournament

Traffic is a common occurrence, but for fans of the Dayton Flyers, it’s a usual event every gameday. A trip across the Great Miami River leads to the Flyers’ athletic complex. It became the same ritual for Bonnies fans heading to the University of Dayton Arena for the team's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012.

Snow, sleet and hail pounded down on the car as we ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, April 23

Olean Public Library, Olean

Mother Goose Story Time


Mon, April 23

Olean Public Library, Olean

Introduction to Spinning, a History of Yarn

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, April 23, 6:30 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

Investigation Stations


Olean Litter Control Program Prepares for Spring

April 18, 2018

OLEAN, NY – Spring weather is approaching and the City of Olean Litter Control Program is armed with bags and gloves to start cleaning up the litter that winter has left behind.

“This year we are in great need of volunteers” said Lila Ervay, the committee’s chairman. “We currently have a number of volunteer groups consisting of schools, businesses, churches and ...

New Scholarship Dedicated to ALCS Teacher “Bernie” Taylor

ALLEGANY, NY -- The teachers that make learning simple and fun while connecting with students are often the ones most fondly remembered.

Bernadette “Bernie” Taylor was that kind of teacher at Allegany-Limestone Central School for more than 30 years according to her widower, Thomas Taylor.

“She had the skill of making chemistry easy. Chemistry tends to be tough for ...

'A Day in the Life': One Transportation Supervisor Serves Portville and Olean

PORTVILLE, NY – A whiteboard with dozens of destinations and vehicle numbers written in various colors sits inside the Portville bus garage, ready to be changed at any moment. David Youngs, the transportation supervisor of the Portville and Olean School Districts, knows that before 2 almost every afternoon, he is likely to receive an email changing the entire meticulously planned ...

'A Day in the Life' Follows Della Moore of the African American Center for Cultural Development

OLEAN, NY – When Della Moore walks down the street, she greets everyone she passes and makes sure to ask, “How are you doing?” 

From the moment I joined her at the 7-Eleven on a cloudy, cold December morning until we finished making our stops along State and North Union streets, she remained ...

'Day in the Life' Follows Warehouse Selector Justus Elliot

OLEAN, NY -- For Justus Elliot, time and pace are essential. As a warehouse selector for Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-Op, most of the 21-year-old’s job calls for efficiency.

“Everything is time-based," Elliot explained. "One hundred percent is the norm, and it’s what we work for every day. If our score is less, then we are moving too slow, and we kick it into ...

Happy Veterans Day, Mom

What began as an attempt to boost her GPA soon turned into a 22-year career for my mom, Ramona Lee Discavage.

On the first day of her freshman year at St. Bonaventure University in 1989, members of the Army ROTC Seneca Battalion helped incoming freshmen move their stuff into their dorm rooms.  Afterward, they invited all of the freshmen to a lunch.

“When they described the ...

Lynn Kemp: ‘Best Soldier I Could Be’

Lynn Kemp is nearing 95 and knows he has lived a good life.

“The good Lord has been awful good to me,” recalled the lifelong resident of Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. “I never refused an order. I tried to be the best soldier I could be. I don’t know what your relationship is with God, but mine is pretty close.”

Born Oct. 29, 1920, Lynn grew up in a home on Turkey ...

WW II museum provides role models for young people

When Steve Appleby asks area students if they know Snoop Dog, Eminem, Kanye West, the Kardashians, Parris Hilton or Miley Cyrus, they answer yes. Then Appleby will ask which of them knows Jason Dunham is, and the students will not have a clue.

Appleby will explain that Jason Dunham was a Marine from Scio, in Allegany County, New York, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 after jumping on a grenade ...