The Ford Bridge

© Patricia Bour-Schilla

© Patricia Bour-Schilla

As a forbidden summer activity, we enjoyed swimming at the Ford Bridge over the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. We would leave our clothes at the base of one of the columns on the Minneapolis side, crawl up on the concrete arches until we were over the deep water, and then dive or jump into the river. We didn’t know it was illegal or prohibited because there were no signs. We did know, however, that it was not proper to run around outside naked. One afternoon in July we were diving from the arches into the river. When we were all up on the arches, a police car pulled up under the bridge.

“Hey, you guys, come here,” yelled a policeman as he got out of the police car. He probably wanted to tell us something that we didn’t want to hear, so we started up the arch toward the Saint Paul side of the river. The other policeman got out and they both got up on the bridge arches.

“Hey, you guys, get back here.”
The police, knowing the third bridge column stood in the water on the Saint Paul side, thought they had us trapped. We, knowing that there was a rope to swing to shore with, kept running over the arches. All ten of us, without a stitch of clothes on, swung on the rope one by one, reached the bank, tied the rope to a pipe, scrambled up the bank to the bridge roadway, sprinted across the 1,500- foot bridge, ran down the hill on the Minneapolis side, got to the police car, and then let the air out of two tires. Then we put on our clothes and strolled home.