Unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges

For Sparky and myself, curiosity drives passion which in turn fuels our life's engine. Our passion was capturing the story of both unbuilding the Grace (1929 - 2007) and Pearman (1966 - 2007) Bridges and discovering the unbuilders. It takes a lot of passion to track a project from July 2005 until April 2007 - rain, shine, hurricanes or moving to Singapore. We discovered the joy of discovery learning. Ken Canty opened the front door for us - then Steve Testa, Ponch Billingsley and Mickey Rogers opened many side doors. Below are the highlights of what we discovered, who we met and what we learned.

And a reminder from T.S. Eliot (East Coker from the Four Quartets)

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

February 4, 2006: Pio, Michael, Sonny and Steve
600 feet of Grace and counting down

I had not checked up on Pio since early in the week when they had just passed the truss. At about 200 ft/day (100' by day, 100' by night) - the end of Grace is near. So here is Pio in his front end loader

and Sonny and Steve

and Pio

However, a few hours earlier, Sparky caught the real action. Here is Sonny (like Nugget and Speedy, no one knows their real names)

trimming a piece of guard rail

Meanwhile Brutus, the little Testa that could,

is involved in a little cleanup and trim work on one of the Pearman pier bases. Look at Bob McCabe in his captain's chair. Its clear who is directing traffic here.

While Michael prepares to bit into a concrete segment

and lift it

and rotates into the unloading position

and places it on the ramp surface

Then Sonny pushes it down the ramp in his little cub

While Steve mounts his trusty 120-HP V-6 gas powered flat saw

and starts cutting the next grid of roadway segments

(as seen from above)

toward the shoulder

and a small daytime July 4 fireworks

while Sonny is loading some guard rail segments actually picks them up

and places them in the cub's mouth


and moves them down to the Coleman Recycle Center

When I got there, the clouds had all said goodbye and Michael was hammering away at the expansion joint

Breaking the concrete so it can be cut more easily

Michael in his hammer

and Michael in his Testa orange (I dream of wearing one of these) shirts

If you ever drove the Grace bridge - you knew that two lanes was a tight squeeze - but this tight? - Requires Pio in his new job as a traffic policeman.

Mike doing the driving after moving the side view mirrors

Here is what remains of Grace's skeleton

Pio is counting the feet and has marked

the distance every 100 ft - here 600 ft to go.

Now that Mike is done, Steve, concrete cutter and his concrete dust beard are going back to cutting more roadway

and Steve cutting

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C. Frank Starmer