My maternal grandfather Charles Becker
was the son of a German immigrant. Most of us are the descendant
of immigrants so that by itself is not unusual. But Charles's father
Louis came for a reason that was somewhat unique. He came to fight
for the North in the Civil War. At that time a man could evade the
draft by either donating $100.00 or getting someone to serve in
his place. Louis Becker received free passage to this country to
serve in place of a wealthy coward.
Charles Becker may have been one of the twelve young people who
climbed the stairs of the new "Main" building in 1887
and began to fulfill the dream of Charles Pratt as the first students
at Pratt Institute. He didn't like Pratt and would cut class to
go down to the waterfront to talk to the seamen. When his father
found out he almost did to him what my grandfather did to the English
landlord. He never spoke to his father after that and went on to
become an ironworker. The problem with being an ironworker is that
it is seasonal. You don't work in the winter.
In 1910 he had an opportunity to be a bridge tender on the Jackson
Street Bridge. He jumped at the chance and took the job. He almost
got killed again but this time by my grandmother. While the job
was steady, it only paid $10.00 per week. That wasn't much money
I think he had five children at that time. I guessed they managed
somehow because I'm here.
In the early 1900's the Jackson Street was very busy with traffic
both over and under it. It was one of the most important bridges
Charles would also use his former trade as an ironworker. At times
he would hang from a boson's chair to do maintenance and repair
work to the bridge.
Charles loved to listen to the Lone Ranger on the radio. One evening
in 1939 he was working on the bridge with his partner Bonnie Looby.
They were both listening to the Lone Ranger when Charles had problems
breathing. Bonnie took him out of the tower to get fresh air. With
that Charles said " I guess I'm finished " and collapsed.
That was a very profound way to say good bye to life on the Jackson
Street Bridge .
I guess I'm finished