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65 years Golden Gate Bridge

Reputedly it is the most visited object of interest in the world: The "Iron Lady" of San Francisco is 65 years old and is daily painted again newly. Meet the men, who dedicate their lives to the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge from the sail boat
Picture by T. Micke

Arturo, Glen, Rocky and Marks are all around 50, and spent half of their lives as (head-) painter and /or plumber on the most famous bridge of the world. 22,000 liters color of the sort "International Orange" must annually be painted on partly with climbing equipment in the most incredible places. And the damp, saline banks of fog, which wave through the "Golden Gate" around the year between San Francisco and Sausalito, ensure the fact that the workers never feel bored when repairing the rust places on 300,000 square meters steel surface.

110 coworkers are busy in different layers as painters, plumbers, electricians and carpenters to keep the "Iron Lady" goodly, and more secure, particularly since September 11. Each of the 115,000 cars, which cross the bridge daily, are checked and electronically examined by their car registration number, on both sides the National Guard stands at attention around the clock, and a camera network ensures that suspicious pedestrians are already examined carefully when they tie up their shoes the first time.

Arturo, Rocky, Glen und Ray: Workers on the Golden Gate Bridge
Picture by T. Micke

Especially since the assault in New York the workers have developed a special feeling of pride and co-operation; after all every month there are bomb threats here, either. Glen: "We are like a family, we have to motivate and bolster each other."

"Many skilled workers are demanded to show a great psychological sense outside on the bridge", confirms Arturo." Exactly at the specific moment when somebody wants to set an end to its life again by jumping into the depth: "A bridge always is a symbol for life as well, something connecting, uniting. It sounds funny, but for us it then becomes a part of our job to kind of become a bridge ourselves." Often with very unorthodox methods, as Rocky tells: "Last year somebody wanted to jump again and put his car keys and the purse proper and orderly on the railing for this purpose. Ray, a colleague of mine, who was nearby, talked a half hour with the man – without being successful. Finally he simply took the money and the keys and left with the words: and that you don't need anymore as well, I think...' – One cannot imagine, how quickly the man ran after him, in order to get his stuff back."

Ponte di Stretto di Messina: The planned bridge above the street of Messina
Picture by Stretto di Messina

And Mark adds: "In spite of that I cannot imagine a more fantastic working spot for a painter or a plumber in the whole world than the famous 'Golden Gate Bridge'!"

However, this could change soon. In particularly at the time when Italy's discussed project of a suspension bridge between Sicily and the boot mainland over the "Stretto di Messina" becomes serious. The elegant, white giant construction named "Ponte Messina" is really to be built now between 2004 and 2010. With a span of 3300 meters it outshines the dimensions of the 'Golden Gate Bridge' twice as much.

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© A report by Tobias Micke (12-05-02) – Contact