Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 19, 2014
Islanders recall the time before the bridge and its construction
The Island will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge on Saturday, June 21, with a variety of events at the bridge, including a rare opportunity to walk across it. (See the special section inside Compass this week for full details.)
Older residents may recall the days before the bridge or when it was new and allowed easy—and different—access to the wider world. The following remarks about the bridge and the days before the Island was connected to the mainland are gleaned from Island Heritage, Reminiscences on Island Life, published by Penobscot Books. The interviews with these Deer Isle and Stonington residents were originally published in Island Ad-Vantages.
“When they were building the bridge, everyone was excited. Every Sunday we would drive up where the old ferry landing is to look at the progress.” Blackmore also remembers how traffic used to back up Route 15 from the ferry landing during Blue Hill Fair time: “You had to get up at dawn” to get in line to cross the Reach.
“It was so easy to travel back in those days, long before the bridge. You got on the boat here; you took the boat to Rockland. We left here about 7 o’clock in the morning and we’d be over in Rockland about 10 o’clock. We’d stop in Vinalhaven. You could do shopping, the way we go to Ellsworth now.”
“One of the things that people said after several years that the bridge was used: there never was skunks on the Island, but now there are two kinds!…I think maybe they should have kept the toll houses on the bridge. It was just a small toll; you knew who came on the Island, you knew who went off the Island. They probably wouldn’t have let those skunks on!”
During seven years of courtship, Fran came to Maine numerous times with her future husband, Lawrence Greenlaw, to visit his parents, Leroy and Stella, in Oceanville. “There was no bridge. We came across in the scow that took aboard five cars. That was always exciting. The scow had a regular schedule and the last one came over at 11 o’clock at night. It was fun, but then it was fun to watch the bridge being built later on, too.”
“In 1934, there was no bridge across Eggemoggin Reach. That meant all my gas came across by ferry scow from Sedgwick to North Deer Isle via 600-gallon tank trucks. During the winter, I transported 10,000 gallons of gas across Eggemoggin Reach. However, when the ice got thick enough, I used a half-ton truck and brought four barrels (200 gallons) a trip. I know Stonington Harbor was frozen up out beyond Crotch Island. I am not positive, but I may have been the only source of gas on the Island” during that very cold winter.
In his college years, “one summer, I worked on the crew up here on the bridge doing cement work on one of the piers. That was when I had the great experience of climbing all the way up the tower, across the top and down the other side!”
Before the bridge was built, “all the stone [cut granite] went by vessels, by water. After they built the bridge, then they started with trucks. When McGuire’s [quarry] was cutting stone, they didn’t ship those big unfinished blocks. They shipped the finished product away. All the finished product was cut out of one block or a number of blocks. But then again, they had to be under a certain weight to go across the bridge, and all that stuff had to be what they called boxed with wood so they didn’t break off the corners [of the granite] in shipment.”
“I went to Little Deer [Isle] in ’42. Thank God the bridge had been built. At first, when I was young, Rockland was the place you went, by boat, by steamboat. For childbirth you went off-island. Vicki was born in Castine. After the steamboat was no longer in use, it was the bridge; you went to Blue Hill, Ellsworth, Bangor. Everything had changed.”
“One man said, ‘I’m not going up that bridge; look how high it is!’ Someone said, ‘Wait ’til the tide comes in, it won’t be so high.’”
“My father-in-law was boss of the causeway when that was built because he knew a lot about stone. They made it [the causeway] curved so it wouldn’t be damaged by the ice, which might break it up.
“The bridge made a big difference to the Island. A lot of people would get forgetful of what time the tide was, y’know, and one of my older brothers took this girl out and they went parking over on Little Deer Isle. And of course the tide was up when they wanted to come home, and they couldn’t! They had to stay there all night! We laughed and teased him awfully because he didn’t know enough to come home.”