My First Suspension Bridge

When I was a kid, my parents took my sisters and I up to San Francisco, must have been the Fall of 1977. One of the lasting moments of that trip was the view of the bridges there. I certainly remember hopping on a few cable cars and eating half of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, but the those bridges were a standout. Of course, for aesthetic reasons, the Golden Gate was the stand out, with its colour of international orange (for you designers out there, the combination is Co362C, RGB 192, 54, 44).

Returning back to my native Los Angeles, I had a new hobby, building bridges out of matches. My family used to eat out at a restaurant called Hamburger Hamlet where I would pilfer countless matchbooks to build my own Golden Gate. While the road was easy enough (lining up cardboard matches on newspaper and drenching them with glue), the towers were tougher. After numerous false starts however, I changed tact and chose a new approach. The restaurant had recently come up with “giant” matchbooks of 20 matches. Each match was an unbelievable ten centimetres long (over four inches).

These matches enabled me to stand the “towers” up near the side of the road. They stood up pretty well, I just had to cut the newspaper out because of the excess use of glue. I used sewing thread for the cables, etching a small slit in the top of the tower. My own Golden Gate had at least six towers and its ratio was pretty thin, not unlike the first Tacoma Narrows bridge, but it survived. I still prefer that homespun approach over bridges that are pre-assembled. I wasn’t very precise – my ratio of measuring to cutting was about 1:6. My bridge took dozens of hours to build, but its impact on me was far greater.

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