Days of Yore
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Green Bank Drawbridge
as recounted by

Bill Day

 

 

Restoration means change
With today’s modern conveniences, unless we pause to think how different things were in the past, we accept the restored houses and towns that we travel to see without reservation.

Restored Williamsburg, VA, is more presumptuous than it was in the 1700’s when it was the capital of Virginia.  A visitor walking its streets and viewing its houses should wonder at the fact that not restored outhouse can be seen.

Bring this line of thought closer to home and consider closer to home and consider the little town of Batsto down in the Jersey Pine Barrens.  Strolling down that one little street between the houses you can see a little house in the back yards of each little dwelling.  Of course, it’s well known that they are covers for fire hydrants.

In the Barrens there is another scene that can be viewed that has remained unchanged despite the passing of years.  This can be seen at the two wooden draw bridges that span the Mullica River.  One bridge is at Green Bank, 10 miles east of Hammonton, and the other is three miles down river at Lower Bank.

When a boat too large to pass under the bridges approaches, its horn sounds it presence.  A woman, usually accompanied by several children, emerges from a house near the bridge road.
Onto the bridge she hurries and from the rack by the railing, she takes a huge wooden key which she inserts in the cog hole in the center of the bridge approach.  She then winds the bridge up so the boat can pass, and when it is through she winds the bridge down.  This is the way it is now, and that wss the way it was then.

However, read this with nostalgia, as one week after it was written, electricity was installed on both the bridges and a flip of a switch could raise them for the first time.

Call this progress, if you will, but rest assured that the wooden keys will be kept handy for when the electric fails when a boat wants to pass.

Progress finally  crosses the bridge over the Mullica
By Carol Comegno – Courier-Post, 3/1/76
Washington Township –Automation has finally come to the timber drawbridges at Green Bank and Lower Bank, and the two grandmothers who used to crank open the bridges with huge 100-pound keys don’t mind the progress at all.

Margorie Cavileer and Blanche A. Walters are more than content with their simple life in the heart of the pine barrens along the Mullica River and hate even the mention of urbanization.  But the two bridgetenders watched with genuine excitement last week as the bridges were raised electrically for the first time.

Now that the mechanization is complete, Mrs. Cavileer and Mrs. Walters will be able to lift the bridges with the flick of a switch.  However, they will continue to lower traffic barriers onto the two-lane spans with a handcrank.

“We’ve got them motorized now, thank goodness.”  Said Mrs. Cavileer, with definite emphasis on the last two words.

Each bridge tender is paid $4500 a year to give 24-hour service to boaters, Mrs. Cavileer at the Lower Bank Bridge and Mrs. Walters at the Green Bank Bridge three miles upriver.  The winding, murky river of cedar water in the boundary between Burlington and Atlantic counties and its twin bridges open mainly for boats headed either for Sweetwater Casino, a popular riverside restaurant or Bell Haven campgrounds.

The Motorization of the bridges is one of the few significant changes to come to sleepy Lower Bank, where automobiles and the Pacemaker boatbuilding company are the only tell-tale traces of modern science that the passerby can readily spot.

Mrs. Cavileer, a jolly, plump woman born and bread along the Mullica, is a 50-year-old widow who says she doesn’t mind that here job forces her to stay home almost nine months of the year.

“I love the river and don’t want to be anywhere else,” she said on a recent afternoon as a nortwest wind howled and she looked out at the panoramic view which she has of the river and her bridge.

“Once we had to live in Haddon Heights for a few years, but I hated every minute of it.  I Just had to het back to the river.”

To Mrs. Walters, the bridge job is just a job, much like the other fulltime job she has driving buses for the Washington Township elementary school.  “Nothin’ unusual,” she insists.

At the mention of the river, the first thing Mrs. Walters said was that she can’t stand the water.  “I love Green Bank, but I hate water.  I never have driven a boat and I can’t even swim.  That’s because my mother never encouraged us in sports when I ws a girl, I guess.”  Said the grandmother, who wouldn’t tell her age but conceded she is “quite a bit older than Margorie.”

Although Mrs. Walters is closer to retirement thatn Mrs. Cavileer, she said she has no intention of giving up her bridge chore, “especially now that it’s mechanized.”

The two women had been waiting patiently for three years for the motorization, which spells the end of an era that many are sad to see go.

The large padlock keys, which the two women have been cranking for almost eight yers, will now be used only if the bridge fails to lift electrically.


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