Mathews Bridge celebrates 60 years

Original parade queen returns after decades for bridge's anniversary

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If you drive across the Mathews Bridge, you are driving across nearly 60 years of history. The bridge was originally built in April of 1953. Saturday people from across the area came to celebrate, even people who were there when the bridge first opened.

The ribbon snapped Saturday, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Mathews Bridge, looked much like the one celebrating it's grand opening.

In April 1953 Jacksonville celebrated the brand new bridge with a parade. And they did the same this time, with the same queen who led the parade 60 years ago.

"We rode over the bridge you know and we thought we were big somebody's you know," says Frances Padgett. "But it was fun it was fun and we did the same thing while ago and it was so much fun!"

Padgett is 92 years old, but still has fond memories of what life was like before the bridge was built.

"We used to have to go down Atlantic Boulevard for me to go to Western Electric, which I worked for 22 years," Padgett recalls. "And everybody that moved to Arlington rode with me. I had a convertible. We put the top down even when it was freezing, but we turned the heat up. And then they got the bridge up and they shortened the time less than half."

SLIDESHOW: History in photos

Saturday people took a chance to walk across the bridge the usually only see in their vehicles.

"It's fun it's really cool cause when you're driving it's a lot different so you actually get to see what you're doing," says Donovan Geloghegan.

Named after State Sen. John E. Mathews, a ride across the bridge used to cost drivers 15 cents.

When the Mathews bridge first opened it was called a "bridge to nowhere." Sixty years later, things have changed.

In 1953, Arlington was full of dirt roads and woods, and only accessible by a ferry. When the Mathews Bridge came, all that changed.

Steve Matchett, president of Old Arlington Incorporated says, "Immediately all the town and country shopping center gets cleared and developed literally hundreds of subdivisions homes and subdivisions popping up all over Arlington."

And as they celebrate 60 years of the bridge that made it possible, organizers are looking forward to many more years of growth.

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