I remember the Gold Star Bridge being built when I worked at the Outlet Co,, which is now Marshalls in the New London Shopping Center. I didn’t pay much attention back then because I lived and worked on the New London side. But when the bridge safety nets caught in the high rigging of the US Coast Guard Barque Eagle, snapping two of the three masts, it got everyone’s attention.
One bridge I watched being built on a daily basis was the Baldwin Bridge over the Connecticut River. We lived in Old Saybrook at the time, and I owned a business in East Lyme, so daily I watched the herculean efforts it took to build that bridge using a horizontal gantry.
The old bridge, both ways on one span and narrower than one side of the new bridge now, was a nightmare, especially in the summer. On the Old Lyme side, traffic got so bad on Sundays that they closed the Route 156 on-ramp at three in the afternoon. In order to make it home after work on a Sunday I hired someone to keep my store open until five and I’d race down the Post Road to Old Lyme to make it over the bridge before I was trapped on the southbound side.
I-95 traffic would back up all the way to East Lyme. Often the Post Road was crammed as well so I had to drive to the bridge in East Haddam just to get home.
When the northbound side of the Baldwin Bridge was finally finished in May 1993, local folks and elementary school students from Goodwin School were invited to walk the highway span over the river to Old Lyme. Getting to walk on the highway was a big deal. There are not many times in your life when you can leisurely walk the center line on an interstate which spans one of the most beautiful waterways on the East Coast.
As a class-mother, I accompanied my older daughter Becky and her class to the walk. We boarded buses at Goodwin School and were transported to a construction lot on the northbound side. I think there was a ribbon cutting. If memory serves, the first car to go over the old bridge in 1948 was the car leading our group on that special day in 1993.
It was a kick and a once in a lifetime experience to walk the northbound lanes of the Baldwin Bridge. The kids were given round badges with their names, and “Baldwin Bridge opening’93” on them. A bit rusted over time, we still have Becky’s.
Once on the Old Lyme side, we boarded buses to be taken back to Goodwin School. The kids were hot, tired and I think the significance of that day was lost on them, but not me, who forgot sunscreen for my fairest child.
From then on, I never let my kids go anywhere without sunscreen.