I love bridges, grand and small. I love songs of bridges — “Bridge over Troubled Water” and Bobbie Gentry’s tragic “Ode to Billie Joe.” Who threw that baby off the Tallahatchie Bridge? That always makes me cry.

When he was 24, my grandfather, “Big John” Conlon, left his five coal mine brothers back in Pennsylvania, who then owned the mines.

But John hated the mines. He yearned to be a riverboat pilot. So he ran away to St.Louis and two years later piloted his “Delta Queen” under the new, magnificent bridge that spanned the Mississippi River, a bridge that was built by Capt. James Buchanan Eads. Grandpa loved that bridge. I loved it.

On the bridge’s 100th anniversary, Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic for The New York Times, described the Eads Bridge as “among the most beautiful works of man.”

My favorite bridge was, of course, the great Golden Gate Bridge that linked San Francisco with Marin County on the other side of the persistent fog.

Did I ever tell  you the true story about what occurred on that Golden Gate Bridge in a rainstorm back in 1954, when three of my Air Force buddies and I were crossing to get a beer in San Rafael?


A taxicab stalled in one lane, holding up traffic. We stopped directly behind it, and while every horn in San Francisco honked, we ran up to see if we could help.

OMG. The driver of the cab was in the back seat helping a young woman deliver her baby.

Airman Freddie Blackman got in to help the frightened cabbie, just as a photographer ran up and aimed his camera.

At that moment, as I was holding the cab door open for them, a toy doll fell out into the rain. I bent down to retrieve it just as the camera flashed. No picture for me.

So here I am, on another rainy night in Waterville, Maine, writing about the impact of the work on the troubled Ticonic Bridge that is allegedly crippling the daily business of Waterville’s merchants.

Some are hurting, I learned, but most are not. I had noticed the outside business of the Silver Street Tavern is, as usual, full up.


You see, bridges, like your teeth, need constant care. The drums of time, it appears, have begun to beat for the ancient Ticonic Bridge, between Waterville and Winslow. The good news, we hear, is that work has begun. Hurrah!

The bad news is that the bridge will be closed to westbound traffic for about three years. Egad! Three years?

In those three years, we’ll have a new president, or a chaotic mess.

In those three years, we might be talking to the little green men on the spaceships that experts say have been admiring the bridge work.

In three years, I will probably still be entertaining you on another Sunday, or I may be a box of ashes or in a nursing home, thinking I’m Tony Curtis or Olivia de Havilland?

On that third Christmas, the merchants of Waterville might be recovering from the third apocalyptic winter of WWIII, digging away at one long line of snow-covered electric cars on Main Street, which has returned to one-way traffic, and the Ticonic Bridge will celebrate its grand opening. Hurrah!

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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