Festival of Bridges #5 ~ Bridge to a Better Life

This contribution to The Festival of Bridges comes from Sandy Penny, a woman I am fortunate have come to know over the last year or so through blogging. I love her way with words and her ability to bring us to unfamiliar places and make them feel like home. Sandy’s website can be found here

Bridge to a Better Life

There are so many ways I could talk about this bridge, but I want to keep it personal.

McKinley Bridge Crop
McKinley Bridge crossing the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri to Venice, Illinois

The McKinley Bridge stretches across the mighty Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri to Venice, Illinois. It connected my small town, Venice, with the huge Gateway to the West, St. Louis, where the famous St. Louis Arch was being built as I grew up.

I could see it going up, piece by piece from my second story bedroom window. But I lived across the river in a town of only about 5000 people, and my life was very different from those who lived in the big city.

I went to a small school, only about 500 students through all the grades, Kindergarten through grade 12. I had 28 students in my age-level class. But, we had a great school with lots of things small schools didn’t have back then. We had olympic style gymnastic training equipment, a brand new gymnasium, marble floors, a classical music room, a state of the art language lab, and some of the best teachers in the state. How could we afford all those wonderful perks?

McKinley Bridge belonged to Venice, and it was a toll bridge. All those tolls supported our little town, and most especially the school.

There are other things, like how we would climb the train trestles and dodge into the balconies as the trains roared by a few feet from where we stood. And how traffic had to stop on the bridge if a train needed to cross. And it was an electric bridge, so electric trolleys on rails could cross it too.

Such powerful impact on my childhood, and a bridge to a better life in so many ways. It’s now is disrepair, and has been turned into a bicycle bridge, and that’s still good work for an old bridge.


The Festival of Bridges is running until October 31st. Submissions are welcome in words, image, music about bridges, loosely defined, that have special meaning for you. Email your contributions to me at: jeantubridy@aol.com. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

17 thoughts on “Festival of Bridges #5 ~ Bridge to a Better Life”

  1. I’ve visited St. Louis in the past and have probably seen this bridge. I enjoyed reading its story as told by someone who can remember the bridge across the entire span of time that it been in existence. It’s interesting how it’s role has changed over the years–as well as how it bridged two different communities and states.

  2. I happen to be visiting back home right now, and they have repaired the bridge and reactivated it. It is a free bridge now, but once again connecting St.Louis and Venice. Thank you all for your comments. It does my heart good to share a slice of life with you.

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