Bay Bridge Oral History Project
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Interview Transcripts

Photo of William Baker

Bill Baker was born at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley in 1935. This interview marks the third time that Baker was interviewed by the Regional Oral History Office: the first two interviews cover his long career working with the UC Office of the President and thus that work is not covered in this interview. In this interview, Baker discusses the few years that he spent working for the Division of Bay Toll Crossings – a predecessor of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). During that time, he served as a structural engineer, working on the ground (and on the Bay Bridge) helping with the removal of rail tracks from the lower deck of the bridge and related work. He also discusses his work since retirement in dispute resolution, including work related to retrofitting the Bay Bridge and building the new eastern span of that bridge.

Photo of Greg Bayol

Greg Bayol was born in 1947 in San Jose, California, and raised in the East Bay Area. He attended San Francisco State University, where he witnessed the tumult of the 1960s firsthand. In 1970, Bayol started as a mailroom clerk with Caltrans in their San Francisco offices. Within a short time, he was promoted to be a highway maintenance worker. After a brief period with the DMV, Bayol returned to Caltrans to work in the public affairs office, where he remained for the next twenty years. In this interview, Bayol discusses the bridges of the San Francisco Bay Area and the work of Caltrans overall, with special attention to public affairs, public relations, and communications. Topics discussed include the Bay Bridge 50th anniversary celebration in 1986 and the response to the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

Photo of Bob Bridwell

Bob Bridwell was born in Edgar, Nebraska in 1932. Following time in the service, he enrolled in an engineering program at Heald Collge in San Francisco, eventually joining San Francisco Bay Toll Crossings as a Junior Engineer. In this interview, he shares his perspectives on transportation in the Bay Area, the evolution of the San Francisco Bay Area environment, and the various influences and problems facing bridge engineers in this era. This interview also discusses the impact of evolving environmental regulations on the maintenance of toll bridges in the area and offers perspectives on the dangers of working on bridges high above spans of water. Bridwell offers memories on the response to the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and the significance of environmental factors for bridge engineering. Bridges discussed in this interview include the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Benicia-Martinez Bridge, Carquinez Bridge, and the San Diego-Coronado Bridge.

Still photo of Willa Cantillon Willa Cantillon, born in 1959 to an Irish Catholic family, is a native San Franciscan. From an early age she bucked the cultural expectations of a young girl and started learning about various manual skills. She apprenticed as an electrician as a young woman, taking jobs retrofitting the Sheraton Palace Hotel and other structures in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In 2010 she was hired as a journeyman electrician to work on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. In this interview, Cantillon describes the work of an electrician in bridge building, gender politics in the trades, and other related issues.
Photo of Loise Fraser Louise Fraser was born in 1913 in Pomona, California. In 1925, her father became a conductor on the Key System – one of several rail lines providing service around the Bay Area. The Key System would soon expand its network as a part of the newly constructed Bay Bridge, which featured rail lines for trains on the lower deck. During the celebration in honor of the dual opening of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, Fraser represented the city of Oakland on a parade float. Enrolled as a student at the University of California, Berkeley at the time of bridge construction, she was selected to represent Industry alongside other co-eds symbolically representing Culture and Education. In this interview, Fraser not only describes her personal experiences as they related to the construction of the bridge, she discusses the many changes in transportation witnessed by the Bay Area between the 1920s and the post-World War II era.  
Photo of Jack Giolitti Jack Giolitti was born in 1935 (one year before the opening of the Bay Bridge) in St. Helena, California. After high school, he apprenticed under a watchmaker before joining the Army. Following a short stint as a housepainter, he applied for work at the Bay Bridge and was hired as a bridge painter in 1959. In this interview, Giolitti describes his impressions of the bridge from his arrival until his retirement over thirty years later. Changing safety regulations, procedures, and union activity changed the nature of bridge painting over a thirty year span. He describes, in detail, his recollections of fatalities and other workplace accidents experienced over his lengthy career. In sections of the interview, he compares his experiences to those of bridge painters working on other structures – including the nearby Golden Gate Bridge. Other bridges discussed in the interview include the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.
Photo of Ron Goldgruber

Ronald Goldgruber was born in Oakland, California in 1964, the son Austrian immigrants. After earning a degree in civil engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Goldgruber took a job with Caltrans. He eventually became a field inspector on the Bay Bridge, checking concrete during the retrofit following 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In this interview, Goldgruber discusses his work as a field inspector in detail addressing a wide variety of issues related to the bridge retrofit as well as differences between the old and the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. He also discusses his personal interest in Bay Bridge history, and his collection of memorabilia from the time that the bridge was constructed.

Photo of Ronald J. Grele Ronald J. Grele is a noted oral historian who has published extensively on memory and oral history theory and methodology. Newly married and expecting a child following his graduation from the University of Connecticut in 1959, he moved with his wife to Berkeley in order to join the Beat Movement. He soon found work at a metallurgy laboratory based in the East Bay, Anamet Labs. While working for Anamet Labs he assisted a project to strain gauge sections of the bridge, placing monitors at specific points on the western span of the Bay Bridge. In this short interview, Grele shares his recollections of life and culture in the Bay Area in the early 1960s, memories of working on the bridge, and critical thoughts on interpretations of the bridge as a symbol.
Photo of Jack Lamborn Jack Lamborn was born in 1926 to American parents who were then working in a mining operation in Anyox, British Columbia. Lamborn’s family returned to the United States shortly thereafter, where his father worked in the scrap metal industry. Lamborn’s father worked for a subsidiary of US Steel, procuring scrap metal during and for the construction of the Bay Bridge. In this interview, Lamborn recounts the nature of his father’s work on the bridge, growing up in the Depression, and his own memories of attending the opening ceremonies for the Bay Bridge in 1936.
Photo of Bob McDougald Bob McDougald was born in 1928 in Auberry, California, just outside of Fresno. In this interview, McDougald describes seeing the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge for the first time when he attended the 1939 World’s Fair held at San Francisco’s Treasure Island. Before visiting the fairgrounds, McDougald’s family made sure to drive over the entire Bay Bridge – the new paint and rivets catching his eye, the enormity the structure making a mark on his consciousness. McDougald later attended UC Berkeley and he details his experiences taking engineering courses with T.Y. Lin and Boris Bresler. Shortly after graduation, he was offered a job working with what was then called the Division of San Francisco Bay Toll Crossings. McDougald became a junior engineer working on the transformation of the bridge in the late 1950s, making both decks ready to carry automobile traffic following the removal of the rail lines on the lower deck. In this interview, he describes his experiences in assisting the large conversion project. Following that experience, he would continue as a bridge engineer, assisting numerous conversion, maintenance, and construction projects. Bridges discussed in this interview include the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, San Diego-Coronado Bridge, Dumbarton Bridge, Carquinez Bridge, Benicia-Martinez Bridge, Antioch Bridge, and two failed proposed crossings: the Southern Crossing south of the Bay Bridge and proposed San Francisco-Marin bridges or underwater tunnels. McDougald was one of the first engineers on the scene following the collapse of a section of the Bay Bridge during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
Photo of Richard Mooradian Richard Mooradian was born in 1957 in Burlingame, California, just south of San Francisco. At any early age, he developed an interest in mechanics, which sometimes got him in trouble. Working at a service station in high school led to seeking a job as a tow truck driver for a private towing company while attending Merritt Junior College. In 1979, Mooradian took a job driving tow trucks for Caltrans and then, within a few years, he became a structural steel welder for the department. In this lively interview, Mooradian describes in vivid detail the jobs of tow truck driver and structural steel welder on the Bay Bridge, including how he dealt with issues such as car wrecks, suicide attempts, and the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Mooradian also compares the original eastern span with the new eastern span, nearing construction in 2013.
Photo of Evelyn Rode Evelyn Rodes was born in 1915 in Gonzales, California. Her grandparents had moved to California from Europe and eventually her family came to own a large and successful farm. Tough economic times resulted in foreclosure and the family moved from the farm to Oakland. Her father, Albert Roy Pura, soon became a contract laborer finding work on the Bay Bridge. Rodes recalls her father’s stories of working on the bridge during its original construction. She recalls driving her father to work one day, terrified to drive back alone over a partially completed roadway. This interview helps contextualize the lives of one of the many workers who helped build the Bay Bridge – most of whose voices are lost to history.
Photo of Frances Ryan, Toll Taker on Bay Bridge Frances Ryan was born in North Dakota in 1921. Her family relocated to Lodi, California, and then at the outset of World War II she moved with her sister to Berkeley to find work. In this interview, she recalls crossing the Bay Bridge on a bus, and upon first witnessing the newly hired female toll takers wearing attractive uniforms, she immediately inquired about a job and took the civil service exam. While working as a toll taker on the bridge during the war, she met her future husband, a California Highway patrolman. Ryan recalls her time as a toll taker coming to an end at the end of the war, though she recalls the period in her life with great fondness.
Photo of Chuck Seim Chuck Seim has the rare distinction to have worked on all ten automobile bridges spanning the San Francisco Bay. He was born in 1925 in Los Angeles, California. The child of working class parents, he determined at a young age that he wanted to become an engineer. Following a stint working for the Army, he enrolled at UCLA to study engineering. He transferred to Berkeley in 1951 before completing his degree, deeply inspired by several key faculty members – including the renowned structural engineer T.Y. Lin. Soon, Seim was working for the Division of Bay Toll Crossings – starting a lengthy career in civil engineering, with a specialty in long bridge spans. Seim eventually became an independent consultant who advised bridge construction projects throughout North America and internationally in Asia and South America. Bridges discussed in this interview include the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Dumbarton Bridge, Carquinez Bridge, San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, Martinez-Benicia Bridge, San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, the Ruck-a-Chucky Bridge, High Bridge (St. Paul, MN), 35W Bridge (Minneapolis, MN), Silver Bridge (West Virginia and Ohio), Rama IX Bridge (Bangkok, Thailand), Strait of Gibraltar Crossing (Spain and Morocco), Miles Glacier Bridge (aka “Million Dollar Bridge” Alaska)  and the Brooklyn Bridge (New York City, NY).
Photo of Bob Sorenson Bob Sorenson is a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he was born in 1950. His family moved to California in 1951, where he was raised. Sorenson attended San Francisco State University and then joined Caltrans in 1977 as a maintenance worker, initially working as a “lane scrubber” at the Bay Bridge toll plaza. Sorenson then began driving tow trucks on the bridge and operating other heavy equipment in a maintenance capacity. He retired as bridge maintenance supervisor in 2012. In this interview, Sorenson discusses the Bay Bridge from the vantage point of a maintenance worker, including safety issues, encounters with the California Highway Patrol, car wrecks and suicides, and the difficult tasks of cleaning and maintaining the bridge.

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