Saturday, January 02, 2010


We’ve lived in a few neighbourhoods. Each has had its own particular assets, but none has been quite like Riverdale. In Riverdale we do things a little differently, things that are, as Ruth once put it, “So Riverdalian.”
Take this afternoon, for example. Fabe and Linda Jennings gathered a dozen adults and four kids for a bridge party. We didn’t play cards. Instead, we spent the afternoon sipping hot apple drinks, eating gingerbread and celebrating bridges. We began by telling bridge stories—stories about the bridges in our past.
You learn a lot about the history of your neighbours through their bridges. You travel through their lives. In the space of a few short moments we visited Philadelphia, Virginia, Niagara Falls, New Brunswick, Halifax, Vancouver, Drumheller, Medicine Hat, Calgary, and Dunvegan. Recounting tales of our own city we crossed our own High Level Bridge on a streetcar, buzzed across the noisy deck of our Walterdale, hugged the narrow lanes of the Low Level before its widening. Then we got down to saluting the star bridge of our gathering, our neighbourhood bridge, the Dawson Bridge.
The Dawson Bridge was built in 1912 to haul coal, agricultural products, horse-drawn wagons, streetcars and pedestrians. These days, 16,000 vehicles cross it on an average day, making it the least-used bridge in our city. But we all love it anyway. Over the years it’s been painted, patched and mended. Now, at the ripe old age of 97, it’s closing for a year, preparing for a renovation that should stretch its life for another fifty.
We talked about that bridge, how much it means to us, how we love to cross it by car, by bus, on foot. We talked about the city views it offers in the early morning, the convenience of slipping across it for after-supper band practice. We recalled how we had walked it to reach the golf course, to cross-country ski, to pick Saskatoons. After the talking was done we put on our warmest clothes and walked down to the bridge. Fabe had filled a wheelbarrow with ice and snow. Gathering on the bridge we tossed the wheelbarrow’s contents over the edge with a ceremonial shovel.
Twilight gathered and we dispersed—a group of neighbours warmed by the experience of coming together to salute a neighbourhood bridge. It was all very Riverdalian, all very wonderful!
We’ll not be allowed on the bridge for about a year. A year seems such a long time. Sixteen thousand vehicles—a million in a year—will have to find another route. Thousands of cyclists will have to cycle elsewhere. Thousands of walkers will walk by instead of across. We’re going to miss that bridge. But we will have each other, all the more so because we huddled together in the biting wind on a January afternoon, wishing our Dawson Bridge a speedy rehabilitation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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