Golden Gate's 75th birthday weekend kicks off


A performer from Beach Blanket Babylon was preceded at the podium by a host of politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, whose father once served on the bridge's board of directors.

"Growing up as kids we had a free pass and every time we went across the bridge, we never had to pay the toll and I felt that was a little unreasonable, and that's where I got my first notions of political reform," Brown said.

In the audience was 95-year old Gus Villalta, who worked on the bridge construction project in 1935. He said the site today looks a lot different than he remembers it.

"It's so changed all over now, and I just can't remember anymore, and I'm too old to even talk," Villalta said.

Also in the audience Friday were the granddaughters of Russell Cone, who was bridge engineer Joseph Strauss's right-hand man. Cone was the resident engineer and oversaw the construction project day in and day out.

His granddaughters said he always felt the genius engineer behind the bridge design -- a man named Charles Alton Ellis -- had been overlooked. Thanks to the Cone family's efforts, Ellis got his recognition Friday in the form of a plaque on the bridge.

"He was the mathematical genius and he figured out how to deal with the tide, the wind, the earthquake possibility, the depth of the ocean," said Lucinda Cone.

Ellis was fired by Strauss in 1931 and went on to teach at Purdue University.

According to Paul Giroux of the American Society of Civil Engineers, when Ellis?s students would ask him about his efforts on the Golden Gate Bridge he would tell them he "designed every stick of steel on that bridge."

Big celebration

A daylong celebration on Sunday at Crissy Field is expected to draw a crowd of 300,000. People who plan on attending should be aware that no parking will be allowed around the bridge and the Crissy Field area.

The bridge will also be closed Sunday from 9 to 10 p.m. for a fireworks show, so drivers should plan their routes accordingly.

"You can imagine, with one hour of traffic shutdown, it's going to take a couple of hours potentially to flush that all out and get everybody moving and everybody home," said Mary Currie, spokesperson for the Golden Gate Bridge District.

Currie said people should come prepared with layers and water and settle in and enjoy the day.

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