Maybe it was just a decrepit old wooden bridge badly in need of replacement.
To Traci Gaddis, however, the bridge over the Mexico Beach canal at 36th St. was her decrepit old wooden bridge badly need of replacement.
And, no, she didn’t picket or toss herself in front of the crane or shout epithets at the construction workers, but still it felt like she was losing a trusty friend.
“I am sure I was the only one out there with a tear in their eye,” Gaddis said. “It was just my little bridge,”
“Every day, my sister and I, that was the bridge we walked across going to and coming from the school bus.”
At the time, the 1970s, there were “very few houses around.”
The bridge became something more, a counselor, sounding board (pardon that pun), a place to vent, to offer the deepest of thoughts and ideas.
About a fight with sis, about Ms. Biggs’ upcoming test.
“My sister and I, we just thought that was our own private bridge,” Gaddis said. “That bridge holds all my secrets from childhood.”
She learned to drive, or not, over that bridge.
“Even to this day I pray I don’t see another car coming,” Gaddis said. “I won’t go across if there is another car there.
“The bridge was always scary.”
As an adult the bridge was canvas.
Every week that Port St. Joe High School celebrated “Shark Week,” Gaddis would decorate the bridge with her collection of Shark mascots.
And the bridge, most importantly, the first thing mentioned in conversation, was a spot for life passages, milestones: Gaddis and her husband, Garry, became engaged to marry on that bridge.
That was on an Aug. 31; 44 years ago Friday.
The construction crew taking down the structure, which will be replaced with a concrete bridge, came to understand the attachment Gaddis conveyed about “her bridge.”
She brought seven of her eight grandchildren down to say goodbye to the bridge; we are talking conveyance.
So, one day, a member of the crew grabbed a saw and reached down to remove a section of the oldest beam at the bridge’s foundation.
He gave it to Gaddis.
The crew gave her five planks from the deck.
“They are my treasures,” Gaddis said.
How long the bridge, which was indeed (don’t tell Gaddis) beyond its expiration date, spanned the canal along that road is unclear.
Gaddis was 13, and the year was 1970, when she moved to Mexico Beach and it was already there and hardly had that new-bridge glow.
“As I understand it, from doing a little research, it was one of the oldest working wooden bridges in Florida,” Gaddis said. “It has always been kind of rickety, rackety.”
But the tales it could tell.