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Golden Gate Bridge celebrates 80th anniversary

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The Golden Gate Bridge District is asking locals to send in photos and remembrances of the bridge. This photo was sent to the district by Lisa Amsler Parnow, of Petaluma, and was taken by her grandmother. Parnow’s grandfather was a construction worker on the bridge. (Courtesy Lisa Amsler Parnow)

Pageantry! Bedlam! An “Epidemic of Joy!”

So went the many descriptors of the May 27, 1937, pedestrian opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, as reported by the San Francisco Examiner the following day. Punctuated by many exclamation points, the Examiner documented that more than 200,000 people “had gone on the jaunt” across the magnificent new span.

Flash forward to Saturday when The City’s International Orange-colored span will celebrate its 80th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District asked the public to recall their favorite memories and photos on social media, with the hashtag #MyGGBStory.

Lisa Amsler Parnow, of Petaluma, shared that her grandfather helped build the landmark.

“Proud that my grandfather Charles Amsler was fortunate enough to support his family through the Depression by working on the construction of our beautiful GGB,” she wrote on Facebook.

Though the bridge’s construction in the 1930s led to some workers to die plummeting from its heights, her grandfather survived. Her grandmother took photos mid-
construction, but Amsler Parnow told the Examiner that her grandmother regretted not taking a photo of the bridge when it was completed.

“She said that although they knew what a big deal the project was, they didn’t really realize the magnitude of what an iconic landmark it would become on a global scale,” Amsler Parnow said.

Global it became. As part of its celebration of the 80th anniversary, the Golden Gate District posted famous movie scenes featuring the bridge — some showing its (fictional) destruction.

The Golden Gate Bridge met an untimely end from a giant octopus in “It Came from Beneath the Sea” in 1955, as well as by Lex Luthor’s machinations in “Superman: The Movie” in 1978, and it was ripped apart by Magneto’s mutant powers in “X-Men: The Last Stand” in 2006.

The district also highlighted its workers, from electricians seen perilously walking up the bridge’s cable toward one pylon, to its 32 painters who battle fog-born damage to maintain its art deco facade.

“There are a couple of misconceptions about how often the Bridge is painted,” the district wrote in a post. “Some say once every seven years, others say from end to end each year. The truth is that the Bridge is painted continuously.”

Eight decades later, one other tradition is alive and well — bustling traffic.

Today, the bridge’s capacity of 9,000 autos per hour is maxed out, as it exceeds 11,000 vehicles per hour during commute times. Yet, for all the traffic troubles, in 1937 it was a scene “crammed with autos” that christened the bridge.

As the Examiner wrote in 1937:

“Precisely at noon, the red traffic lights at either end of the bridge will flash to green, under a telegraphic impulse sent by President Roosevelt in Washington. Cannon [sic] will boom. Automobiles will move out from the San Francisco and Marin shores. The barrier of the Golden Gate will be swept away.

“A new bridge will be open.”

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