Recently several of us were reminiscing about the good old days when we were teenagers in high school back in the 1950’s… barely old enough for a driver’s license and still using the family car, very occasionally, for transportation.
Rainier was a small town… you could walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes… not much going on. Longview was a much bigger town… and much more exciting. But it was about four miles away and involved using a toll bridge to cross the Columbia River. Technically the toll bridge was named “The Longview Bridge” but only the citizens of Longview called it by the official name… to those living in Rainier it was “the Bridge.”
In those days it cost a dollar to drive cross the Bridge… two dollars if you counted on coming back to Oregon… wages were $1.35 per hour so the toll was a big chunk out of the weekly paycheck for a working man. The Bridge toll made access to the excitement of Longview nearly impossible for an unemployed teenager from Rainier.
Floyd was telling the story: “We reduced the individual cost of crossing the Bridge by taking a carload and splitting the toll.
“One day six of us loaded into a car and headed for the YMCA in Longview and on the way back, just as we approached the toll booth, we realized we didn’t have a dollar to pay the toll. We didn’t even have the ten cents each it cost to walk across the bridge. What now?
“While we were discussing the dilemma, Donny, who was driving, suddenly stomped on the gas and accelerated past the toll booth without stopping to pay. All of us were whooping and hollering… Donny was so excited he wet his pants.
“The Bridge was about a mile and a half from downtown Rainier where the city cop was waiting for us. He pulled us over, walked up to the driver’s side window, leaned in and said: ‘First time I ever caught six criminals in one car.’
“The whooping and hollering was over… done… we were a subdued bunch cowering before the eyes of the law, waiting for the harsher sentence: ‘Tell your sad story to the judge.’
“Perhaps he had pity on us… our situation… for then he said: ‘Don’t let it happen again.’
Darwin added to Floyd’s story: “Maybe he had pity on you because his son was also in the car.”
(Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)
Story and photo ByLarry
The Longview Bridge has been toll-free since 1965 and has been renamed “The Lewis and Clark Bridge”
For a history of the Bridge