Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Before the opening of the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, better known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Rehoboth, Bethany and Ocean City were sleepy little resort towns. The bridge changed all that. The number of summer visitors to Rehoboth, for example, has climbed from about 10,000 to 50,000 since it was built. A second span to handle all the beach traffic was dedicated in 1973. An excerpt from The Post of July 31, 1952:
By Chalmers M. Roberts
SANDY POINT, Md., July 30 --
It's open at last.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the world's longest continuous over-water steel structure, was dedicated formally today in a roasting sun with blazing oratory. Twin ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held here at the western or "mainland" terminus near the new toll gates, and later on the Eastern Shore side.
The orators, shaded under a canopy, kept expressing sympathy for the thousands in the sun -- but talked on. When the "brass" and their guests drove across, for free, the traffic jam was so bad, it took them more than an hour.
But all these items did not detract from the beauty of the bridge or the manner in which Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin, a Republican, gave credit to his predecessor, Democratic former Gov. William Preston Lane. In fact, McKeldin's praise, plus a souvenir silver tray, so affected Lane he had to wipe away a tear.
"A dream came true because of you," said McKeldin to Lane, the man he trounced two years ago in the gubernatorial election.
McKeldin paraphrased Edgar A. Guest's poem "Somebody said it couldn't be done," with Lane the hero who took off his coat.
"This is `Pres` Lane's day," said McKeldin. The crowed appeared to agree, judging by the applause, that the former governor was, indeed, due most of the praise for his dogged fight to get the bridge started despite violent opposition.
Lane called the bridge the realization of "a dream of over 50 years," and he suggested that it might be called the Memorial Bridge in honor of the Free State's war dead. There have been suggestions that it be named for Lane.
The show began at 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes late, with the 19-gun salute due a governor ... About 15,000 persons were on hand.
Some five-and-a-half hours later, with the cutting of the set of ribbons on the Eastern Shore, the show ended and workmen hurried to clear the highway of chairs, stands, and empty soda bottles so the first cash customers could use the span.
At 6:06 p.m. the first regular customer passed through one of the six toll gates on the west shore.
He was Omero C. Catan, a New Yorker who has a hobby of being first at bridge and tunnel inaugurals. He arrived in the head of the line at 6 a.m. Tuesday. By 6:15 p.m., nearly 400 cars were waiting at the toll gate after the bay ferry finally shut down for good. It took a little while to get the toll gates working smoothly.
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com