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End Of An Era

The middle of last month ended an era in our small community. A large steel bridge is coming down to be replaced by a new more streamlined model. Work is underway, but the main structure still remains at this point. The bridge is about 80 years old and is badly in need of shoring up at the very least.

This magnificent structure replaced a covered bridge that was the centerpiece of the courting ritual in the area during its time of tenure. Everyone confessed to having journeyed to the covered bridge for a kiss or two during their courting days.

If memory serves me correctly I believe the covered bridge came down in the late 1930s. My husband’s grandfather helped with the dismantling of the covered bridge. We have a section of a movie that was made during the dismantling process. A prominent citizen told me he was the baby in the buggy that was being wheeled across the bridge and in other scenes taken at his time. I had to go back and look at the footage to see exactly what it showed. There was a passage way across the creek at that point.

About the time that Dick’s grandfather was taking the bridge down he wrote a poem about it. I include the poem here to show the affection that the old bridge had.

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A Tribute to the Old Covered Bridge

By Ted Peterson

“With hand hewn wooden arches it

spanned from shore to shore

The lazy Conewango, serving well in

days of yore, but in days of modern traffic

inadequate it stood.

Now it’s razed and gone forever, steel

replaces spans of wood.

No more you hear the noises, of the

horses hoofs and of the wheels

Of the heavy laden wagons creaking

sounds.

So loudly peels.

Now it’s gone, but not forgotten, in

my memory lingers still

As I wander from this valley, ov’r

the ridge beneath the hill.

Looking down from off the hill top,

gazing gently from the ridge

Here’s a fond salute in memory

To that “Dear Old Covered Bridge.”

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I never knew Grandpa Pete as he was fondly called. I did not come to this area in time to make his acquaintance. My husband always told me that his grandfather met all of his girlfriends but not his wife. I found this poem tucked among memories of Dick’s family. Someone wrote it on paper for him to have. I know that it was read during the bicentennial celebration.

The steel structure holds fond memories for many folks who grew up in this area. A friend’s daughter asked him to go to take a picture of the bridge before it was dismantled. That, of course, is the only bridge she remembers.

I recall another bridge across the Conewango in Akeley. That bridge was dismantled more than 20 years ago to be replaced with a more modern version. My husband and I drove across that bridge one last time before it was closed. There was a bit of inconvenience during the construction period. Cars were detoured over Cider Mill Hill Road. The bus routes had to be modified, too, since some of them crossed the Conewango in Akeley.

I was teaching at Russell during this detour so I took that road to work every day. It really did not change my commute very much. The detour was simply another way to get to school. It was not any longer or any shorter.

Now people are complaining about the detour. It does change the commute for many people in the area. They have to go to Akeley to cross the Conewango or go down the Big Four Road. I am not sure how good the Big Four Road is at this point but I know that it gets impassable during the winter months. (We had a minister who had to call a friend with a tractor to pull him out since he did not realize there was no winter maintenance.) I am sure that some bus routes have been modified this time as well.

The Conewango is at a high with water coming down from New York swelling the banks. The water spills out over the surrounding area flooding many areas. I recall one of our principals going in a canoe to call on a family with children who were not attending school on a regular basis. I remember this because the nurse had to go along and she was not very happy about it. We all heard about the adventure during our lunch break.

Although it is sad to see the dismantling of the bridge, it will be replaced with a structure that is safer to travel. People forget how bridges deteriorate with the weather being the biggest contributor. Large trucks pass over that bridge to deliver things within the area. We are not the only community to lose a bridge. It has happened in many areas.

As for the inconvenience that is just something that has to be tolerated as well. With progress there is sure to be pain.

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