TODAY | April 09, 2012
ANN CURRY, co-host: TODAY' S AMERICAN STORY WITH BOB DOTSON is a tale of love, tied to San Francisco 's Golden Gate Bridge , that you'll be talking about for a long time because Bob is here to share it with us. Bob , good morning.
BOB DOTSON reporting: Good morning, Ann. You know, people fall in love for lots of different reasons but few as romantic as this. It starts with a 25 cent bet. San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge was so loved when it opened in 1937 a lot of people scribbled their names and addresses on its towers. A friend bet Bill Hughes he couldn't pick one at random, write a letter and get a reply.
Ms. PATRICIA LUCAS: My name was the one that he put his finger on.
DOTSON: Bill almost lost that bet.
Ms. LUCAS: Well, I thought pen pal, boring.
DOTSON: But Patricia Lucas wrote him back.
Ms. LUCAS: Because he wanted that quarter.
DOTSON: A lot of people gambled on the Golden Gate , a bridge critics said could not be built. Divers had to anchor it in a rage of whirlpools and riptides. Workers had to stack towers taller than four Statues of Liberty . Fog made the iron slick as ice. No one had ever done anything like this before. But the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in just four years, on time and on budget. People who lived around San Francisco bet big on the business the bridge would bring. At the start of the Great Depression they mortgaged their homes to get a private loan for one of the largest public works projects ever built. It linked the poverty around them to the world of hope.
Captain LISA LOCATI: People risked their homes, their properties, their ranches.
DOTSON: For their families' futures.
Cap. LOCATI: What do you see?
Boy: Golden Gate Bridge .
DOTSON: Lisa Locati grew up four miles from the Golden Gate . Graduated college on money she made moving lane markers on the bridge .
Cap. LOCATI: Captain Locati.
DOTSON: Today, she is the first woman in charge of its security.
Cap. LOCATI: Attention all lanes, carpool is over.
DOTSON: The Golden Gate Bridge has only had nine captains.
Mr. MIKE LOCATI: Yes, I was number eight and I'm married to number nine.
DOTSON: Mike Locati fell in love with Lisa , working in this picture frame.
Mr. LOCATI: OK. There you go.
DOTSON: When Mike retired a few years ago his grandkids started calling the Golden Gate "grandma's bridge ."
Ms. LOCATI: And is "pop pop's bridge " sometimes if they remember.
DOTSON: A place right out of their storybooks, where toll takers have have been known to give more than change to grumpy children.
Mr. PETER KLEIN (Retired Golden Gate Toll Taker): We would always say, ' Mom and Dad , guess what, we've got candy for the kids.' And the kids would stop fighting immediately. And I said, 'This moment of silence has been brought to you by the Golden Gate Bridge Transportation Authority . Don't leave home without it.'
Ms. LUCAS: It was a fun ride. We had a great time.
DOTSON: Patricia Lucas finally met her childhood pen pal, six years after she scrawled her name on the Golden Gate Bridge . Are you wearing his hat?
Ms. LUCAS: Yeah. That's when he came to visit on a 24-hour pass.
DOTSON: Bill Hughes was training to be a bomber pilot during World War II . Patricia was the only person he knew who lived near his base. Was it love at first sight ?
Ms. LUCAS: I think I was a little disappointed that he wasn't a little beefier, you know.
DOTSON: But Bill started sending love notes.
Ms. LUCAS: See how romantic.
DOTSON: He did that for 48 years, all their married lives, until the day he died.
Ms. LUCAS: I miss him. A lot.
DOTSON: Their love story is forever linked with the Golden Gate Bridge .
Ms. LUCAS: It's just a bridge . But it's our bridge .
DOTSON: The people's bridge . Whenever Bill Hughes got backed up in traffic on the Golden Gate , friends would kid him about hopping out and finding another name. And he said 'No, I got lucky the first time. I could have picked her grandmother.'
CURRY: You know, Bob , I don't know where you find these stories but I'm glad you do. Because you remind us when you tell them who we are and what we're made of. Thank you so much , Bob Dotson .
DOTSON: Thank you.