Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bridging the Century

Reflecting on the annual (33rd maybe?) Cooper River Bridge Run held today and listening to my 22 year old son relay his enjoyment of participating in the race (for his 2nd year), I began to think about the "old bridge" on which the annual race originated. When it was constructed in the 1920s, it was considered an engineering marvel. However, it became obsolete by its 70th birthday and is now gone but not forgotten - at least by old-timers here. I must say I never had much of an affinity for it. It scared the daylights out of me when I started driving! Although it was built for 2-way traffic (and was only 2 lanes wide), it had become one-way by the 1960s when a slightly larger version of it was built alongside it to transport drivers east across the Cooper while the old bridge carried them west. When the Bridge Run was held on the old bridge, runners would say they could feel the bridge swaying with the movement of the many hundred (eventually thousand) feet in motion. (Glad I'm not a runner!) But nonetheless, the original bridge had its place in history, just as the "new" Ravenel Bridge does. When my mother was 14 years old, she was given a class assignment by her teacher to write an essay on how she imagined Charleston would be 100 years in the future. The focus of her theme was shipping, and part of her story was the "old bridge." Even though the bridge was not even 2 decades old at the time, she foretold that a larger one would be built to accommodate larger vessels that would sail under it 100 years hence. Her predictions have become true - both about the bridge and about the ships. And her essay was chosen to be put into the time trunk at the Charleston Museum. It will be opened in 2039, and we'll see just what a young 14 year old student had to say on the topic. In any event, the Cooper River Bridge (both past and present) is not only an important fixture in our skyline here, but is also an important testament to the industry on which this city was founded.

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