Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Bridge to Somewhere

There is a scene at the end of Meet Me in St. Louis, where the young Judy Garland and Tom Drake have gone to the St. Louis World Fair with the family and as they start to gather to go get ice cream or something, a fireworks display goes off.  Judy and Tom lean, enraptured, against a wall and watch it all--the fair, the fireworks, the people...

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...and Judy says something to the effect that so many people had come from distances to be there at the fair, but they didn't have to because the fair was right there where they lived, right. there. in. St. Louis.

Every time I hear someone dream about seeing the Golden Gate Bridge some day, or find it on a list of top XX number of sights in the world, and especially every time I come out of the rainbow tunnel above the bridge on a clear day heading for San Francisco and see it shining off in the distance, that is the scene I think of.   I don't have to come from a long distance to see the Golden Gate Bridge, it's right where I live...Right in my own back yard.  Sort of.

The bridge has been a part of my history since before I was born.   My Uncle Frank (Peach's father) was one of the builders of both of San Francisco's bridges, which were built at about the same time.   Each time I drive through the area of Sea Cliff and head out through Lincoln Golf Course and up toward the Palace of the Legion of Honor, I stop and look back on the bridge and think of the picture I have seen so many times, taken at the same location, of the two towers standing but no roadway yet.

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The bridge opened in 1937, before my father met my mother.  He and his father walked across the bridge that first day, before they opened it to automobiles.

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I walked across the bridge myself (on the sides, though!) a few times with friends in high school and have taken a few guests walking across the bridge when giving my famous tour of San Francisco.

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Twenty five years ago, the bridge celebrated its 50th birthday.

BridgeWalk50.jpg (80346 bytes)The city celebrated in grand style, as only San Francisco knows how to do.  They closed the bridge for the day to allow people to walk on the bridge.  They had absolutely no idea how popular that idea was going to be.

Walt and Char did the walk, but they couldn't get anywhere near the bridge, so they had to walk for miles from the ocean beach just to get to the bridge.

When they got there it was gridlock on the bridge.  People were walking across from Marin County toward the City and from San Francisco toward Marin County and the idea was to meet in the middle, but it was so jam packed with people that you couldn't move.
Walt and Char never made it onto the bridge, but they did get past the toll plaza...just barely. And they can look at this picture and know that they are in there...somewhere.

(This is an interesting article about how that 50th anniversary celebration went)

There is one photo of the bridge which is very scary and which caused a lot of heart palpitations among the organizers of this grand celebration.  I have not seen that picture but the once, but it shows the middle of the bridge actually sagging under the weight of all those pedestrians.  It could have been a real disaster, but it wasn't.

It's 25 years later now and this week end the bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary.

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There were events all over the city, but nobody decided to repeat the debacle of the bridge walk this year.  I don't know if Char and Mike went to any of the events, but their son Cam and his wife Evelyn were there to watch the sun go down behind the bridge and watch the fireworks, and, since we are now in the age of smart phones, post photos to Facebook for the rest of us to enjoy.

 When I was watching her video and her photos, I was Judy all over again.  People had come from far away to be there for the celebration of the bridge....but I could go there whenever I wanted.  Because it is right in my own back yard.
Sort of.

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