Thursday, March 27, 2014

1977: Jay Rockefeller walks the Silver Memorial Bridge

Jay Rockefeller is finishing up his 30th and final year as a U.S. senator representing the Great State of West Virginia, as it's known here. Before he went to Washington for good, Jay was governor of the Great State of West Virginia for eight years.

I have interviewed and chatted with Jay many times over the years. The first time I met him was in October 1977 when he visited the Silver Memorial Bridge at Henderson following three or four months of repairs that forced the bridge's closing. The bridge was built in 1968 and 1969, and it used the T1 steel that is susceptible to butt weld cracks (Put those words in the wrong order, and you wince in pain). So less than a decade after the bridge opened to traffic, it had to be closed for repairs to those welds.

The afternoon before the bridge re-opened, Rockefeller and some officials flew to the scene by helicopter for a walking tour of the bridge. I was there to cover it.

Here is Rockefeller (the tall guy with the glasses) walking from the West Virginia side toward the Ohio side. The shorter fellow with the mustache was, I believe, state highway commission commissioner Charlie Miller. In the background you can see the old Shadle Bridge over the Kanawha River. That bridge was replaced and demolished about twenty years after this picture was taken.

Here Rockefeller and others are looking up at one of the areas where repairs were made.

And here was about the point where we turned back around. As he neared this end of the bridge, Rockefeller said something like, "So much for Ohio," turned and walked back toward West Virginia.

As his helicopter lifted off for his trip back to Charleston, it threw a mild panic into a herd of cattle grazing nearby.

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