Golden Gate Bridge replica builder honored in SF

June 6, 2012 7:14:00 PM PDT
For many people seeing the Golden Gate Bridge is a highlight of their trip and that was especially true for a Kansas couple who got a personalized tour.

It's strange and true that if you visit one of those spots where tourists view the Golden Gate Bridge, you can see people from all around the world. Most come and go in relative obscurity, but not Barbara and Larry Richardson.

"It's a dream come true," said Larry.

It was-the culmination of their fairytale. You might feel that way, too, if you had hand-built a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge back home in Mulvane, Kansas and did it from only postcards for inspiration.

"We were looking at the postcard and we called it 'comparison engineering,'" said Larry.

As Larry explains it, his fascination with the bridge began in 1968. He was on his way to the war in Vietnam, when he caught just glimpse of it when leaving. The image stuck.

"It was the last thing I remember of the United States. It tied me to the states," said Larry.

When Chronicle writer Chuck Nevius wrote the story, the Richardson's became a celebrity cause. San Franciscans donated airline tickets. The Handlery Hotel donated a suite. San Francisco loves them and they love us, even our big city drivers.

"People let people in. There is no honking, no hollering, no yelling. Ah, I was amazed," said Barbara.

Today, the bridge district rolled out its golden gate. They got special access and special pictures.

Then, finally, after all the buildup Barbara and Larry finally set foot on the actual bridge. It was just a couple of tourists tailed by a gaggle of reporters.

When asked if he expected to be under a microscope, Larry said, "No. This is way out of my comfort level."

Some people get 15 minutes of fame, but if you build a Golden Gate in Mulvane, Kansas, you can get three days.

"We almost bought t-shirts that say 'We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.' But at least we got all the way over the rainbow," said Larry.


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