Newport celebrated the 75th birthday of the Yaquina Bay Bridge throughout September with displays, exhibits, and events happening all over town, culminating in a whole weekend of celebration October 1–2.
Saturday, October 1––I had to leave the Florence Festival of Books at noon in order to be at the Newport City Hall for a 2 p.m. panel discussion. Matt Love, high school English teacher and author, had invited me and warned me that it would be fast paced. As facilitator, he would keep things moving.
The walls of the city council chambers were covered with drawings and writings about the Yaquina Bay Bridge from elementary students and poems and photos from high school students. The photos were also shown one after the other on screens behind us during the discussion. Fabulous photos.
It was question and answer––Matt asked and panelists answered. Panel members included Tim Sproul––poet who grew up in Newport and now works in the Portland area for Razorfish Creative Media––and Benjamin Tang––Manager of Historic Bridge Preservation for ODOT. I was considered the historian . . . because of my book, Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges.
Matt had questions for us individually and encouraged back and forth exchanges and comments from the 100 or so audience members. McCullough was a major topic and I told about his three-year involvement in a lawsuit that gave him the chance to research arches back to the Romans and visit reinforced concrete bridges around the world, making him one of the most knowledgeable people alive when it came to building reinforced concrete bridges. I also read a couple of passages from the book including a quote from McCullough.
Tim told about growing up around the bridge and how his dad went to sea on a research vessel as part of his job for Hatfield Marine Science Center. From the bridge he saw the dangerous ocean side his dad ventured out upon to the west and the safe harbor side to the east. He also read a poem he had just written about the bridge that was poignant, humorous, and totally awesome. And Ben talked about some of the restoration and cathodic protection, which have been done on the bridge to help preserve it for decades to come and that the cost to replace it would be about 600 million––not a possibility in this economy. Matt involved the audience and true to his word, kept things moving. Soon it was 4 p.m.
Afterwards, a group of 15 or so audience members followed us as we drove to the bridge and there we continued the discussion. We stood under the north end surrounded by soft rain. Ben pointed out some of the restoration work. Matt and I told bridge stories, and Ben and I spouted statistics. And by the time we left, we all felt like old friends.
Sunday, October 2––The schedule included a parade across the bridge followed by a birthday celebration under the northern end. The celebration included tables for those with coast bridge books. I was there early to set up, and met two other authors that had been at the Florence Festival of Books the day before.
A shuttle stopped by often to provide a ride to the other end of the bridge. After arriving at the southern end, I chatted with a number of people from Newport but also from Corvallis, Eugene, Waldport, Lincoln City, and North Bend. They had all come to walk across the bridge and be a part of its birthday celebration. Right at noon, with one lane closed to traffic and no rain or wind just threatening skies, out stepped the Coast Guard Color Guard, followed by the Newport High School cheerleaders and the high school band. Then came the people––hundreds and hundreds. According to rumor at least a thousand, but that may have been an exaggeration. There were young and old, a teenager on crutches, old-timers in wheelchairs, a boy on a unicycle, folks in 1930’s attire, people with dogs, families together, couples, groups of teenagers, and some like me—by themselves. It was one big happy group with lots of digital cameras clicking away. I stopped often to look back, and at one point, people completely covered the bridge. I got a lump in my throat.
After the people came the restored classic cars—real beauties—and bringing up the rear were the Newport roller derby babes. The parade was a real happening—thrilling to be part of it.
Afterwards, during the celebration under the bridge, a band played and June Rushing in 1930s style clothing enthralled everyone with her singing. Barbecue was on the grill and other types of food and beverages were available. Those in costumes paraded and prizes were awarded, teenagers recited bridge poems, and Tim Sproul read his poem. Various people were honored, and those of us with bridge books sold some and got to know each other.
I became reacquainted with people I once knew and had a chance to chat again with Darle Maveety, whose father, Otto Hermann, had been the superintendent on the job when the Yaquina Bay Bridge was built. I didn’t even have time to eat the lunch I brought. It was such a full day, an exciting day, a day where the rain held off until the last 45 minutes or so. Even when it came, we were protected by the bridge—the beloved, 75-year-old green lady (affectionate moniker used by locals).
Can’t say Newport doesn’t know how to throw a birthday party!
Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges can be yours for $24.95 plus $3.99 shipping. Order from Pacific Publishing at www.connectflorence.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available on the coast in bookstores, museums, and gift shops; in Eugene at the airport, the historical museum, and several bookstores; and in Portland at Powell’s and the Oregon Historical Society.
Judy’s PowerPoint Presentations:
November 5, Saturday, 2 p.m.––Visitor Center Theater, Cape Perpetua Visitor Center (south of Yachats)
November 12, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.––Visitor Center Theater, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport (just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge)
February 19, Sunday, 3 p.m.––Port Orford Library, Port Orford (1421 Oregon Street [Hwy 101])
Judy, your story reminded me of when the old Waldport bridge was replaced (1991? 1992?). I think you may remember that I was on the phone at OCM doing some factchecking with a woman at the Waldport Chamber of Commerce when I heard a loud “BOOM!” She told me the old bridge had just been destroyed with dynamite. I could hear the emotion in her voice, which of course got me started, too. Then when the new bridge was completed, they had a dedication ceremony that I attended as a “civilian.” It was awesome; people were everywhere.
The Yaquina Bay bridge celebration sounds like a replay of that day & brings back warm, fuzzy memories for me. Folks really do love the beautiful bridges on the Oregon Coast. I’m so proud & fortunate that I get to live here; nowhere else compares.
Congratulations on that special day when you were privileged to participate in this historic event. I know you did a bang-up job. (So, have they scheduled the 100th anniversary events yet? You won’t want to miss that either.) 🙂