Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Somewhere Over The Bridge ...

Can you imagine five teenagers walking somewhere over the rainbow? Probably you can’t. Neither can I. However, it happened one bright sunshiny summer afternoon in 1952.

Jimmy Cassady, Joe Randall, James Anthony, another friend and a girl whose names I cannot recall, and I set out in my 1939 Buick to seek adventure. We were bored, restless teenagers and we needed to find something really exciting to do.

One of the guys suggested, “Let’s go walk across the Port Arthur-Orange Bridge.” As most of you know, this bridge is on Highway 87 and connects Port Arthur with Orange County. The bridge has a vertical clearance of 176 feet with a total length of 7,752 feet. That’s nearly one and one-half miles. The name was changed to the Rainbow Bridge in 1957. You can read more about this remarkable structure at www.tsha.utexas.edu.

Anyway, we thought that walking across the bridge was a great idea. We motored down through Port Arthur and north on highway 87 toward the bridge. My, how tall and skinny it looked as we approached. There was an eighteen-inch walkway on the west side of the bridge. The girl did not want to walk on the bridge so she drove my Buick across to the other side and waited on us.

There was not a lot of traffic, which was in our favor. That little narrow eighteen-inch walkway did not allow much room for error. We began our hike up the incline. It was really neat to look down into the water. We could see lots of fish swimming around. Some of the larger fish seemed to remain stationary just taking it easy. I believe these were garfish. Some appeared to be four to five feet in length.

Soon, we reached a height where we no longer could see any fish. But the surrounding scenery was beautiful. We stopped from time to time just to view the horizons. Don’t know if you’ve ever stood at the highest point of the Rainbow Bridge and looked around. The view is breathtaking.

Then we started our descent on the Orange County side of the bridge. When there were no cars coming we enjoyed jogging down the incline. Have you ever been running downhill and tried to stop? One of the guys started running. He went faster and faster. Then he decided to stop running. Only he couldn’t stop. He took a tumble and reminded me of a bowling ball rolling down the highway. He suffered some skinned spots but was not seriously hurt. I’m not sure about him but the rest of us had a blast.

I was telling Mr. William D. Quick, well-known local historian, about the bridge-walking experience. He told me that when the bridge was renovated during the middle 1990s, that the eighteen-inch walkway was removed. This was done in order to make the driving lanes wider.

I have never seen the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge which constructed in 1991 parallel to the Rainbow Bridge. It is my understanding that the two lanes of the Rainbow Bridge are for southbound traffic while northbound traffic uses the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge. At any rate, I don’t plan to walk across either one of them anytime soon.

Now I’ll ask again, can you imagine five teenagers walking somewhere over the rainbow? You can’t? Just think about the Rainbow Bridge on a bright sunshiny summer afternoon in 1952. I was there. I saw it happen.

Winston Hamby –


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