Went on a wild goose chase Wednesday trying to figure out what and how things got buried in the old canal valley behind St. Paul St.
Long story short, I wondered what happened when the old Glenridge bridge was knocked down in 1955. Did some of the concrete get buried in the valley?
Brief history lesson: the concrete arch bridge connecting Old Glenridge with the downtown was built in 1914. It had a life expectancy of 35 years. Guess they didn’t consult with the Burgoyne Bridge engineers, huh? Anyway, the bridge started to crumble on schedule, forcing the city’s braintrust to come up with a replacement. Another bridge was considered, but in the end, city council voted to build a huge earthen structure/berm atop which would be a road. It lasted until the late 1970s when it was knocked down to make way for Highway 406 and the current bridge over the valley.
An old story stated demolition of the original bridge started in January 1955.
To the microfilm!
Sure enough, I found a story from Jan. 4 that reported demolition work had begun the previous day. A large crane was rolled on to the bridge. Attached to its pulley was a 3,000-pound, pear-shaped concrete weight. It was dubbed “the headache ball.” The crane would swing the ball against the deck, smashing it to pieces.
I recall seeing similar demolitions in Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Here’s the operative paragraph in the story:
“Rubble collecting beneath the bridge will be trucked away by the contractors. Large pieces will be sorted out and used as rip-rap to allay erosion along Lake Ontario’s shores.”
(Rip-rap definition: a foundation or sustaining wall of stones or chunks of concrete thrown together without order.)
So, there you go. No large pieces of the old Glenridge bridge will be under the puck palace. Unless, of course, the contractor got tired of trucking stuff out to Lake Ontario.
The interesting part of this bridge saga came two days later. As the 45-ton crane was sitting on the bridge swinging the headache ball, the deck collapsed. The crane toppled and crashed into the embankment near Glenridge Ave. The crane operator escaped serious injury.
Today, such an incident would rightly stop work and a major investigation would be launched.
Back then? The crane was simply moved to the valley floor and the headache ball was dropped onto the bridge from a lofty boom.
The story suggested the worker brushed off the incident.
Said a fellow worker: “He’s had this sort of thing happen before. It’s all in a day’s work for him.”
It’s more likely that if he didn’t get back in the saddle the next day, he’d lose his job and the company would get someone else to do it.
Not exactly my idea of the good ol’ days.