I live in Sydney and in this town there are two things that can be described as “iconic” – when I was very young living a hundred miles north it was only one but then they built the Opera House. The first iconic landmark was the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Since 1932 the Sydney Harbour Bridge has joined the city of Sydney to the suburbs of the North Shore. It’s easily recognised not just for the central role it plays in transport — every New Year’s Eve it provides the focus for the first big fireworks display in the world with fireworks shooting up from it’s pylons and arch while more cascade from the deck.
A bridge across the harbour had long been dreamed of before it was finally built. Francis Greenway, a notable architect in the young colony of NSW, first proposed it in 1820. A century had to pass before construction started in 1922.
It was in 1928 that construction of the steel arch of the bridge started but by then Arnold “Jack” Williams had been a foreman rigger on the construction for just over a year. Jack wanted the high wages of the Bridge crew to support his wife and then his baby sons, in 1930 he was taking home twenty nine pounds a week when a carpenter, painter or plumber was getting four and a half.
By the time the bridge was opened on Saturday March 19, 1932 a lot had changed for Jack. He now had two small sons and his wife had left him, taking off to Perth with a sailor. He’d done well though, he was now a foreman rigger.
That Saturday was a big day, the culmination of years of work for many and Jack was filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment at what he had helped achieve. Jack wanted to share that pride with his sons but Roy was still too young, Eric at three and a half might appreciate the celebrations so Jack made a decision. Eric would come along with Jack to the opening including the march by the workers across the Bridge before it opened.
Years later Eric didn’t remember anything about that day but he did remember his father telling him that Jack had carried him on his shoulders for the march. It was one of those family stories, the ones you’re never sure are real but you sure do want them to be true.
Eric did well for himself too. Jack had made sure that all three of his sons got a good education and Eric had risen high in the steel company that had given him a traineeship to put him through University and lived in a unit right on Sydney Harbour where you could see the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Then in 1982 there were celebrations for the Bridge’s 50th Anniversary including a documentary. In the documentary there was some film of the opening celebrations including that worker’s march. There, about half way along the marching workers, was a lean man in his early thirties carrying on his shoulders a small boy.
So I live in Sydney where the Sydney Harbour Bridge is more than iconic, it’s probably the most recognised landmark in the country. To me though it has a special place in my heart, after all my Grandad carried my Dad across it to celebrate the construction all those years ago.
This post was written for the Weekly Writing Challenge entitled “Iconic”.