Mill Street Bridge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970When I’m not thinking about Cape, I hang out on the You Know You’re from Athens, Ohio, If… Facebook page. Folks there post memories of things I shot working for The Athens Messenger in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Someone brought up the old Mill Street Bridge this week.

This is a photo I took of the bridge the day it was destroyed on August 25, 1970, because the river was being relocated as part of a flood control project.

The bridge went splash close to deadline, so I rushed this photo in, only to be told, “Oh, I have that dummied in as a vertical. It’s too late to change, so go back and find a vertical.”

I told the editor to let me have his seat. I laid out the front page to give myself a nice horizontal ride, rewrote a couple of headlines, and said, “This’ll work.” That’s when I appreciated all the pages Missourian editor John Blue let me lay out and the hundreds of headlines I had written.

The biggest lemon in the world

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The vehicle on the left is my 1969 VW Squareback, the biggest lemon ever to be squeezed out of Germany. I loved the car, but it loved the repair shop more. I ended up selling it with the engine in a cardboard box.

Wife Lila and I lived in a basement apartment a few blocks from the bridge and the river. The landlord showed us a big valve they’d have to close if the river got high; otherwise, we were going to find ourselves wading in sewage.

Hocking River gauge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The little square concrete structure on the far left is the river gauge. It was mentioned in a 1916 Water-Supply Paper talking about the Hocking River Basin. It was located “at a single span highway bridge at Mill Street, about three-fourths mile from business district of Athens, Athens County.” The left bank, it said, overflows at gage (their spelling) height 17 feet and the water passes around the bridge. The study noted there were ruins of an old mill dam 300 feet downstream.

Bridge was cut apart

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The horizontal members of the bridge were cut, leaving only the sides and bed behind. I don’t recall what actually brought the bridge down. The crane has been moved well back, and I don’t see the guy with the cutting torch in the final photos.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t use dynamite, like Dad did with a bridge over the Black River in Wayne county, Missouri. In his case, he had to drop the bridge straight down to keep it from damaging the new bridge next to it on one side and a bunch of phone lines on the other. The blast part went great, but cutting it apart like these guys are doing went not so well. You can see a video of it here.

Bridge demo gallery

Here’s a collection of photos of the bridge’s final moments. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.

 

 

The Flood of 1913

Aerial photos of Hocking River relocation 04-09-1970When I moved to Athens, Ohio, in 1967, I sneered at the puny Hocking River: “You call that a river? Where I come from, on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River, we’d call that a creek at best.”

A year later, the Hocking would flood a significant part of the campus, prompting a major re-routing of the river. In this 1970 aerial, the old channel meandered through the heart of the low part of the campus. A dike or plug kept the old river from flowing down the new, straighter, wider channel during construction. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Muskingum River bridge

Malta OH riverfront 08-24-2014Malta was just down the road from Miners’ Memorial Park and Big Muskie’s bucket, so I paused to give Curator Jessica a chance to photograph this bridge over the Muskingum River because there was talk that it might be replaced. I left the motor running and stayed near the van.

Twin City Saloon

Malta OH riverfront 08-24-2014I was trying to make out what that blue line was on the red building when a guy came out, saw me and started pointing up at it. He walked over and struck up a conversation. He’s the owner of the Twin City Saloon, and that line represents how high the water got during the Flood of 1913.

We chatted a bit, then I mentioned that Curator Jessica worked at the Athens museum and that we were lollygagging around the state visiting interesting places. When she walked back to where we were, he said, “I have something you need to see.”

Jessica gets kidnapped

Malta OH riverfront 08-24-2014I didn’t want to leave the van unlocked and running, so I volunteered to move the van closer and lock it up. When I completed my task, I headed over to where I thought the couple had gone. No bar owner, no Jessica.

“That’s great,” I thought. “I’m going to have to go back to Athens to tell Hubby TJ that Wife Jessica has been sold down the Muskingum River for whatever curators are good for, and that it’s my fault for not keeping track of her.”

I decided to check the bar. It had a Closed sign up, but the door was unlocked. There was Jessica and the owner looking over some cool artifacts that had been in the building for more than 100 years.

The Great Flood of 1913

I can rattle off significant Mississippi River Floods: 1927, 1941, 1973, 1993, 2011, but I had never heard of the Great Flood of 1913. The History Channel said “It is estimated that the Great Flood of 1913 killed more than 1,000 Americans, making it the country’s second-deadliest deluge (behind only the 1889 Johnstown Flood, in which more than 2,200 lost their lives). The destruction cut across 14 states—reaching from Vermont to Michigan to Louisiana—making it the country’s most widespread natural disaster.

“The apocalyptic storm that caused the Great Flood of 1913 impacted more Americans than the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, the Hurricane of 1938 and many other better-known natural disasters. So why has history largely forgotten it? Geoff Williams, author of a book on the Great Flood, said it’s because the impacted communities viewed the disaster as a local, rather than a national, calamity. ‘If you lived in Dayton, it was the Great Dayton Flood. If you lived in Indianapolis, it was the Great Indianapolis Flood. People thought of it in very local terms although it was a huge regional flood.‘”

Look at Marietta’s flood levels

Marietta Ohio River 08-24-2014When we got down to Marietta, Ohio, there are some wooden poles that indicate the height of various Ohio River floods over the years. The tall pole at the right shows the March 1913 crest of 58.7 feet. The city’s website said that flood “The flood swept 120 homes away, knocked 200 homes off their foundations and water was eight feet deep in the old Post Office.”

That’s pretty impressive.

 

 

Down by the Riverside

Buoy tender Pathfinder 10-29-2013When I went to school back in Ohio, we had the Hocking River flowing through the campus (REALLY through it when it flooded every couple of years). I used to say, though, that to somebody who grew up on the Mississippi, the Hocking was barely a creek.

It was fun taking Ohio Curator Jessica down to the Mississippi at night. We happened to run into a couple of crewmen from the buoy tender Pathfinder who told us what it was like putting out the markers that keep the huge tows in the channel.

We heard music

We could hear music drifting over the floodwall. Jessica identified one of the sounds as coming from a trombone. She knew it was a trombone, she said, because she used to honk one.

I confessed that I could identify a drum or a cymbal on a good day; otherwise my knowledge of musical instruments was limited. “Is a trombone that horn with a slidey thing?” I asked.

I could hear her eyes rolling, even in the darkness.

The Crystal and Anna Serenade

Crystal Lander - Jackson and Anna Nice - Cape- 11-01-2013When we got up on Water Street, we ran into Crystal Lander of Jackson and Anna Nice of Cape doing some pickin’ and singing.

Showing my newly-acquired musical sophistication, I observed that a trombone was not involved in their impromptu performance.