Saturday, May 26, 2012

Golden Gate turns 75!

Big doings in "Baghdad by the Bay" this weekend!

The descriptive phrase - Baghdad by the Bay - is generally attributed to Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper writer, Herb Caen, who wrote for many years in the San Francisco Chronicle. The phrase celebrated the vast diversity of peoples and cultures populating San Francisco. However, in the late 1980s, the California Historical Society unearthed a monograph dating from the 1890s entitled "Baghdad by the Bay," predating Herb Caen's writing career at the San Francisco Chronicle. So the true author is as yet unconfirmed. 

The festivities in San Francisco this weekend - May 26-27 - celebrates the May 1937 official opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. Actually, there were several "openings."

•  On April 28, 1937, several days after the bridge deck was complete, a gold rivet ceremony was conducted. The bucking was a miserable failure, because the rivet couldn't be heated. After fussing a fuming, the mangled rivet was driven home. The rivet gun was operated by the same gentleman who had driven the symbolic "First Rivet."

•  May 27th was "Pedestrian Day." An estimated 18,000 souls gathered early in the morning of the 27th. By all accounts, first in line was a Boy Scout, Walter Kronenberg, who had camped out the night before to insure his place in history. By the end of the day, more than 200,000 folk had crossed and mingled on the bridge.

•  May 28th was "Motor Vehicle Day." This was the Official Opening Day. This included a plethora of politicians, Golden Gate Bridge District officers, speeches and a variety of ribbon cuttings. At high noon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a telegraph signal from the White House, proclaiming the official opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Joseph Baermann Strauss, Chief Engineer. Returning to his other great love, poetry, Strauss composed verse for the Grand Opening, "At last, the mighty task is done."

At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.
High overhead its lights shall gleam,
Far, far below life’s restless stream,
Unceasingly shall flow;
For this was spun its lithe fine form,
To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,
For fate had meant it so.

It would be the last mighty task of his life. Strauss moved to Arizona to recover from the stress of building the bridge. Within a year, he would die of a stroke.

I've written about another famous Strauss design, Northern Pacific's, now Burlington Northern Santa Fe's "Bridge 14."

As a young airman stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base, up in Marin County, I crossed this span hundreds and hundreds of times. This road view shot in later years shows the hideous suicide barrier. Compare with view below. And with groups of friends, I have walked the bridge many times. It is impressive when it is moving around in the wind!

As a deck hand aboard the Hamilton Lady, I transited under the bridge with boatloads of Air Force officers and other VIP's on deep sea fishing trips.  The Hamilton Lady, operated by Base Personnel Services, was moored at Horseshoe Bay, at the US Army base Fort Baker.

We could take up to 10 fishers, who paid $6 for the trip, bait, and tackle! She was moored at the US Army Base Fort Baker.

Golden Gate dot org posts events going on all year, honoring the 75th Anniversary. One of many features is a really neat web cam. Not only is image streaming in real time, unlike so many "cams" that update periodically, but also you can control the camera! Zoom in, zoom out, pan right and so on. I have just lost an hour of my life following two container ships as they transited the Gate!

Finally, about our headline photo. The time exposure of the Golden Gate Bridge. I shot that picture in May 1967. The following year, it earned second place at the Tillamook County Fair in Oregon, where I had just relocated following the service.

1 Comments - Click here:

Mike Folks said...

When were you based at Hamilton? I was a AFSC 46250 working on the F-106 A and B models, loading weapons and weapons simulators from 1969-1970. I spent many a day off riding my motorcycle to Mt Tam,Mill valley, and Pt Rayes(sp).

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