Proudly Pennsylvanian | Captain Jack Dillman
HARRISBURG, Pa. —
The Susquehanna River can be tough to navigate by boat because of all the rocks, and sometimes wild high waters.
But there's one man who knows how to tame this old lady. They call him Captain Jack.
Almost fifty years later, Captain Jack Dillman still tells the story the same way.
He began canoeing on the Susquehanna River when he was just 15-years-old back in 1944.
"The coal diggers got to know me and of course the ferryman had seen me in action pulling that canoe back and forth across the river,” said Captain Jack.
After hitching rides with a steamboat, in 1945 he began hoeing coal on a dredge.
Then the following year, Captain Jack got the chance that would start a life-long career and love for sailing on the Old Susquehanna.
While riding as a passenger, his mentor, Captain Warren Hunter, let him take over and steer the Second Roaring Bull.
“He went back in the passenger cabin with his detective magazine, and wow. It was a thrill of thrills to run a ferry boat,” said Captain Jack.
In 1949, Captain Jack decided to take his talents to the Navy. He had a 20-year Naval career.
When he returned, he took over the Millersburg Ferry.
Through the years, Captain Jack has had many adventures out on the Susquehanna.
"He said there is a black dog coming across the river. It was a black dog alright spelled B-E-A-R. It was a bear headed right in our direction,” said Captain Jack.
In 1988, Captain Jack started sailing the Pride of the Susquehanna. He sailed until 2010 when he was 81-years-old. Then he stayed on as a Senior Adviser to help train new captains like Captain Deb.
"I don't know how anyone could do this job without spending some time out on the river with jack to learn the river and where the rocks are and where you can go,” said Captain Deb Bradshaw.
Captain Jack is well known around these waters. He says his 73-year-career on the Old Susquehanna has felt more like a relationship.
"He made a remark. He said if I passed away even the river would mourn. It was touching to hear something like that,” said Captain Jack.