By BETTY J. POKAS, Times Leader Area
DID you ever ride a sled over a historic bridge or
back a Model T up a hill to get gasoline into the fuel line?
Such happenings are among the memories and stories
recalled by area residents in connection with the recent reopening the 1828
Sandy Henning Butch, past president of the Blaine
Bridge Community Preservation Project Inc., recalls riding a sled down the
hill onto the old bridge.
Then, there were the businesses in Blaine that
profited because of the steep, winding hill which led to the bridge when
Operating a garage and service station at the bottom
of the hill were Tom Ayers Sr. and Ed McGonigal, and, according to Ayers'
son, Tom, who resides at the edge of Martins Ferry, the two men "had a good
The Martins Ferry area man, who described his late
father as "a super mechanic and a super person," said that cars would burn
their brakes out on the hill and then would be repaired at the service
station. Ayers said the original National Road on Blaine Hill reportedly had
13 turns on it.
Travelers from Columbus and farther points west
thought Blaine Hill was a mountain, according to Belmont County Commissioner
Gordie Longshaw, who is Ayers' cousin.
"They'd burn their brakes up before they got to the
bridge," he commented.
Longshaw said his father's brother, Bill, opened a
restaurant and bar at the bottom of the hill, and persons having their
vehicles repaired at Ayers' and McGonigal's garage would stop there.
Model T Fords often had to back up the hill to get
gasoline into the line, because they didn't have fuel pumps, according to
Longshaw and Bob Howell of Flushing.
Army convoys during World War I sometimes encountered
problems on Blaine Hill on the old National Road.
"It was horrible, it was death-defying," said Howell
when describing the road on the hill before the Blaine Viaduct was
constructed in 1932-33. He also said there were several watering troughs on
the hill to water horses and sometimes to fill car radiators.
He said the brakes failed on a truck loaded with
doughboys in a convoy, and the driver told the soldiers to jump and they
survived. The driver, however, was killed in the accident and is buried in
Blaine Cemetery, according to Howell.
Sue Douglass, founder and chief officer of the Blaine
Bridge organization, also related a story about a convoy, and the driver
reportedly lost control on a curve. Three soldiers reportedly were killed in
that accident, and three white crosses were erected on the right side of the
old National Road, she said.
There also are happier times associated with the hill
and the historic bridge. Douglass recalls it was a great place to throw
stones in the creek.
Just as generations of residents attended the
reopening, participants represented different age groups and, as Douglass
said, all those present were standing "in the footsteps of history."
The Ebenezer Zane Chapter of the Ohio State Society
of the American Revolution had a color guard at the program, and also
participating were teenagers from the Junior ROTC of Martins Ferry High
Douglass spoke at the event, and distributing
programs were her nieces, Ellen and Isabella Slavik, of New Albany, Ohio,
and Ellen represented Douglass in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Her nephew,
Louie Griffith, distributed scissors at the ceremony.
In addition, indications are that youngsters (and
adults, too) continue to enjoy and appreciate the tranquility of the creek
and the durable bridge.