Sunday, July 03, 2011

Bridge Stories

Today, I found it necessary to cross the Susquehanna River twice.

On the way west, I took the "new" bridge, the Wright's Ferry Bridge on Rt.30. I guess it isn't really new, since it was finished in 1972. It seems there are always troubles on the bridge. People jump off it, cars and trucks wreck on it and traffic is stopped. It always seems clean - and bright and shiny - and impersonal. It seems to always be undergoing some construction....

Because of construction, I decided to use an older bridge when I came home and got thinking. As a child and as a teenager, the old bridge - the one we called "Poppy's Bridge" was the one we used:
We called it Poppy's Bridge because our grandfather was employed in building it. He was a carpenter and I guess he helped to build the forms. It was completed in 1930. We always heard the tales of the people who were killed during the building - falling into the large concrete "footers." I'm sure that isn't the right word, but you get the idea.

As I crossed the bridge, I really looked at it for a change. This was part of the first transcontinental highway - The Old Lincoln Highway. At the top of each decorative pier it has with what looks like a Greek key design in it... The new bridge is much wider and roomy, but it doesn't have touches like that - nor does it have a pedestrian walkway. Back in the day, people used to actually walk across the river between the two towns of Columbia and Wrightsville.

Speaking of which... I also thought about the tales our grandmother used to tell about going to visit her oldest sister.
Mimi, our grandmother, was the youngest of 17, born and raised in Columbia, PA. Her oldest sister, Esther, lived in Wrightsville. Mimi talked about how she would walk across the old railroad bridge, listening all the while for a train. If one should come along while they were crossing, she and any companion would cling to the sides of the bridge until the train passed... It always sounded terrifying. Although - I was just reading about the old bridge and it seems that the few cars that wanted to use the bridge would wait until the trains passed and then use the same bridge... Sounds like a rough ride!

There had previously been two record breaking long covered bridges over the Susquehanna, but the first one had been destroyed by ice, high water and severe weather on February 5, 1832.

The second covered bridge shown here...
was famously burnt to prevent the advancement of Confederate troops across the river.

I think in there somewhere was another covered railroad bridge, but these are the ones I have heard about over the years. Funny the things that will occur to you just driving over a bridge.


Mike Reed said...

I remember the steel bridge, barely, I was very young when it was torn down. Cars no longer used it since the Veterans Memorial bridge was built, jus trains. My great grandmother was also named Mimi. She was Helen Myers when she was married to Paul K Myers, my great grandfather. The divorced & she married James Heap.I kinda doubt they are the same Mimi, who knows, maybe.
Mike reed

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you for the fun history! I'm newish to the area, but I've always preferred the older bridge to the "new" one. I've always thought that it was prettier and, honestly, it feels more stable to me :-)