Shedding light on a seldom-told tale

It's 189-miles long, harnessed the power of water before Niagara and is located a scant few hundred miles to the north, but few Americans have even heard of it.

Local author Claire Puccia Parham wants to change that with her upcoming book, St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project: An Oral History of the Greatest Construction Show on Earth, in which she casts light on an obscure but fascinating facet of history through personal accounts of the workers who were there to build it, over 50 years ago.

"This was an uphill battle, to say the least, because people know nothing about the St. Lawrence Seaway project," said Parham. "A lot of publishers didn't believe that it was worth writing [about]."

Opened in 1959, the seaway connects the great lakes with the Atlantic Ocean in a joint endeavor between Canada and the U.S. Since then, it has seen the transport of 2.3 billion tons of cargo and produces hydroelectric power for both countries.

Parham is a decade-long resident of Clifton Park, where she and her husband, Edward Parham, live with their two children, ages 6 and 8. She teaches in the history department of Siena College, focusing on American and 20th century history. The job leaves her time to pursue other interests, including writing.

Her first book, "From Great Wilderness to Seaway Towns," detailed the comparative histories of Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York, and included a mention of the St. Lawrence Seaway Project. When her interest in the subject was later quoted, she said, Parham was contacted by many workers on the project and their families, leading to the interviews that make up the book.

"The book is less for me and more for them," said Parham. "The majority of it is their words."

In her book, she tells the stories of some of the 22,000 people who worked on the construction of the seaway, some of which involved the dozens of deaths that came from such dangers as falls from heights, electrocutions and equipment malfunctions.

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