Sunday, May 27, 2012

happy birthday, golden gate...

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge!
I have two good GGB stories for you. Here they are:
Twenty-five years ago, my father was a member of the Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors. He got all kinds of crazy perks, like free t-shirts from our sister city in Shanghai, and he knew all the toll takers, which I found very cool..
My father served on the Bridge Board for ten years, including during the 50th Anniversary celebration. And turns out, he was the big party pooper. Everyone else wanted to shut down the bridge for a whole day, and throw a big soiree mid-span. My dad thought this would be a big disaster, he was all worried about traffic, and he was the ONE vote on the entire board in opposition of a huge party.
So. Embarrassing.
He was right, or so the story goes.

I have no idea. I was nine when this all went down. But I remember two things:

1. My parents, my brother Alex, and my dad's folks (Nonie and Da) all walked from Nonie and Da's house in the Marina to the Golden Gate Bridge. We went into that toll booth office building on the side of the bridge, which is where the GGB board meets. We all stood on the balcony, and I vaguely recall Dianne Feinstein trying to be nice to me. My mother's plan was that we would walk across the bridge, but by the time we set out, the bridge had actually flattened out. Normally, it curves into a little hill in the middle. SOOO many people were walking across it that day, the whole bridge flattened out. I remember my mother looking at my father and tersely indicating there was no way any of us would be walking, lest the whole thing collapse. And also, he might want to confer with some folks about that whole flattening thing.

2. Nonie and Da eventually walked my mother and brother back to their house (right by the Palace of Fine Arts.)
I was 9 years old. I stayed with my father. He and I sorta stood around with the other board members, press folks, and other mucky mucks. All of a sudden, a man started talking to my father and I remember him saying, "Oh. Really? Yes. Yes, we will."
He looked down at me.
"Bethy! Quick!"
My father grabbed my hand and pulled me into a weird old car. Apparently, someone wildly important didn't make it in time, and my father and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. The Golden Gate Bridge, which had been shut down for the big party, would re-open with six vintage 1937 cars cruising across the bridge. By sheer luck, we happened to end up in the 6th car.
I have a lot of special moments with my dad, but I remember being in one of six vintage cars driving across the Golden Gate Bridge on the 50th Anniversary, and we weren't even supposed to be there.
My dad locked fingers with mine and kissed my hand.

Nine-year old me is in the car closest. And that was 25 years ago yesterday...

*I found this photo here.


sfmike said...

Your dad was right. It was a potential disaster when everybody walked onto the bridge and NOBODY could get off. They were stuck in a claustrophobic nightmare for hours, and somehow nobody got seriously injured. So, good for your dad, and good for your mom for reinforcing the idea that this was a disaster in the making and getting you off the thing.

And congrats on the vintage car ride.

Seana said...

Such a cool story! Gaye Le Baron echoed the experience SFMike details here:

The closest thing I have is a black and white photo of the empty span, days before the opening (parting gift from my days at Caltrans). It sits on my office wall. I'd rather have your story though! :)