Want to Walk Across the Bridge?
by Lloyd M. Kahn Sr.
OK, OK, its not one of MY trips, but its a story my Dad told us as kids and he wrote up in 1987 for the insurance industrys Underwriters Report.
It was a little over 50 years ago. The Golden Gate Bridge was nearing completion and the first lane of the roadway had just been paved.
Bert Crowley, chief inspector of the San Francisco Board of Health, had been assigned to work with the superintendent of first aid during bridge construction.
Be The First
Bert phoned his two fishing buddies, Frank Beale and me to ask if wed like to be among the first, if not the first pedestrians to walk across the bridge.
Would we? Can a monkey climb a tree? Eagerly we accepted.
The next morning we climbed the stairs inside the south tower and met Bert at the roadway at the appointed hour.
His greeting was discouraging. The paving was still too fresh to permit any travel, but he said that if we cared to tackle it, we could walk across the bridge on the planks.
The planks? These were the boards used by bridge workers to traverse the span before the paving was laid. They were 16" wide, laid end-to-end with about the same amount of space in between rows.
Sure, lets go, we both said, admitting to each other in later years that wed really wanted to call the whole thing off and go back down the stairs. For a few fleeting moments I thought about crawling across on my hands and knees.
Off we went, I dont remember the color of the sky that day and we didnt appreciate the view. Adding to our pleasure a plank would bounce up and down every now and then. We certainly did no ballet dancing.
The water was supposed to be 400 feet below. It looked more like a mile. And the safety net looked to be as far down as the water.
Somehow we made it to the Marin tower, after what seemed like 10 miles of slow travel.
Bert took one look at us and said, You guys look like you need a drink, whereupon he took us to the hospital at the base of the tower and poured us each a generous portion of straight bourbon.
After a few minutes rest he took us to the elevator which was suspended on the outside of the tower. It was made of heavy gauge wire (all 4 sides), so it was an open air ride to the beams at the top of the tower. From there we climbed a temporary stairway to the tip top of the bridge where the blinking light now flashes. For some mysterious reason we were no longer scared.
Then back to the road level where we said thanks and goodbye to Bert .
The return trip? No problem. Now we were fortified and practically danced all the way back to San Francisco.