Lock It Up, Boys

(Song by: Jan and Jim Zurcher  –  Song & Performance Notes below)

Jan Zurcher

Jan Zurcher


Lock it up, Boys. We’ve got to free our coal and our trees.
Lock it up, Boys. Our key to prosperity.

Mr. Mercer, Mr. Mercer had an enterprising dream.
A dream of opportunity.
“What if we built a waterway – Join lake to mighty sea?”
Could his dream become reality?

Mr. Pike, Mr. Pike hatched a crazy plan.
He said at feverish pitch:
“What if I take pickax in hand, And dig the Montlake Ditch?”
But his plan hit a bit of a hitch.


Mr. Moore, Mr. Moore raised private money for a lock.
He asked the Corp of Engineers:
“What if we build a wooden dam?” Their “No” was very clear.
And debate went on for years.

Major Chittenden, Major Chittenden finally took command
Confirmed the rationale
“To Salmon Lake, ‘cross Montlake land, We’ll build a ship canal.
Yes, we’ll build the Ship Canal.”


Mr. Moses, Mr. Moses lived in nature’s harmony.
The Black River his people’s lifeblood.
But when the locks were opened wide, that river turned to mud.
People lost the life they loved.

BRIDGE: When progress comes, things gotta change;
Some things are lost, some things are gained.
The Ship Canal helped us grow. But it washed away a little soul.
It washed away a little soul.



I did not know a lot about the history of the Locks before I started this project, but I found good resources on-line, such as the History Link article on the Lake Washington Ship Canal, by David B. Williams.  It was interesting to me that such a lengthy period of time passed between the birth of the idea based on an “urgent” commercial need, and the actual completion of the Locks.  I also learned a lot about the impact of the changes on the landscape and the communities surrounding the Locks. While many celebrated the completion of this major project, others were left much worse off.

  • Words and music by Jan and Jim Zurcher
  • Performed by:
    • Jan Zurcher (vocals)
    • Doug Bright (bass, banjo)
  • Recorded at Jack Straw Cultural Center

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