Bridge of Death

The Merrimack River has always been a major obstacle for travelers to cross. George Washington himself had to cross this river by ferry when he toured the new country as president. The waters of the Merrimack are swift and the current can run both ways as it is affected by the tides at his location.

Click any pic to magnify
This bridge was known as the green bridge basically because it was painted green. How original! It was built in 1902. I remember this date because there was a large plaque with "1902" on it at both ends. I would tease my grandmother, (I was famous for teasing her) by telling her, "oh look grammie this bridge is just two years older than you!" To that I would receive a loving "punch" to the arm.

In the first post card you can see a passenger train which looks like it is crossing the green bridge. It in fact is crossing another bridge just up river on a separate trestle. You can see the proximity of the two bridges in the third post card.

The green bridge had a metal grate deck which would "hum" as cars drove along. We always encouraged our father to speed up to hear how high the pitch would go. I received my drivers license in the last days of the green bridge and had the pleasure of "speeding up" to hear that humming myself. 

By 1968 the green bridge had deteriorated enough that it was deemed unsafe for trucks and buses. Passenger cars were still allowed to cross. It was a scary ride. We always had that frightening thought at the back of our minds, "what if?"

Those of us who lived in Salisbury attended Newburyport High School, just across the river. If you used the green bridge it was only one mile to school. Since buses were prohibited from using the bridge we had to use another bridge upstream which made it a long and boring ten mile ride.

There was this one time when the bus picked us up late and it was inevitable that we were going to arrive late to school. We convinced our bus driver that we would be severely punished if we were to arrive late and begged him to take us across the green bridge.

As we came to the intersection where the driver had to make a decision to go right for the upstream bridges or left for the green bridge he paused. We all chanted green bridge, green bridge, green bridge!

This is what he said, "ok guys, lift up your feet and cross your fingers, we are going across that bridge!" With that, he turned the wheel left, stepped on the accelerator and speed across the prohibited green bridge. This was probably the most exciting school bus ride of my life. It seemed like it took an eternity to get across that bridge but in actuality it was only at most one minute.

Photo: L. Bograd
CrazyasaCoolFox staff photographer
The adrenaline was still rushing as we arrived at the high school. This bus driver did one more thing for us that day.

The high school sits on hill and  has a long horseshoe shaped driveway leading right to the front door. Buses were prohibited here as well. Drivers were to drop off their passengers at the bottom of the hill. The driveway was only used for walkers. Our driver took us right up that hill and let us out at the front door. Teachers, students and administrators were stunned at the sight. The principal yelled at our driver for violating this policy. As we left the bus I remember feeling as though we were VIPs and we were getting out of a limousine. 

Photo: L. Bograd
CrazyasaCoolFox staff photographer
By 1975 the green bridge was gone. It was replaced by the Andrew "Bossy" Gillis bridge, a newer style "flyover" bridge. Instead of a swing span as with the old green bridge this is a bascule type bridge to allow taller vessels up river. The old rail trestle still exists as you can see in the last two photos. it no long carries rail traffic bound for Portsmouth, New Hampshire and  Maine. It's swing span is welded and cabled permanently open.

One more thing, the bridge never collapsed that day, and we were NOT late to school!

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