Oakland pride, Oakland nostalgia now. (Courtesy: Oaklandish)
Oakland pride, Oakland nostalgia now (Courtesy: Oaklandish)

Are you ready, Bay Area? Ye Olde East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is about to be retired. “Rest in pieces!” said KPIX reporter Elizabeth Cook in a recent report.

Whatever you think of the new span — its design, how much it cost to build, the contentious politics that delayed construction — there’s little doubt its predecessor will go out with a whimper, not a bang.

For one thing, there’s no way Caltrans District 4 will blow up the old cantilever section, given all the lead paint on it. At least, so says Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle to The California Report. For another … it was never the architectural marvel of that other bridge over by Marin.

And yet…

A lot of East Bay commuters will feel a little twinge of sadness this week. The old span did its job remarkably well, long past its recommended use-by-date. It also had a certain aesthetic charm: the rhythmic bump of your car passing over its concrete sections, the flicker of natural light between the supports on the lower deck, the flash of gorgeous views on either side.

Graphic artist Carol Klammer noticed it one day years ago when she snapped a photo while driving on the bridge. (She knows: bad idea. She was young and reckless.) Nonetheless, when a friend suggested she submit a few T-shirt design ideas to Oaklandish, a retail fashion firm created to celebrate all things Oakland, it was that photo of the Bay Bridge she chose.

Detail of the Oakland Bridge t-shirt Carol Klammer designed for Oaklandish. (Courtesy of: Oaklandish)
Detail of the Oakland Bridge t-shirt Carol Klammer designed for Oaklandish. (Courtesy: Oaklandish)

Klammer says she found the photograph compelling because of its first-person perspective. “It wasn’t your typical landscape shot of the bridge.” You don’t see a lot of pictures of this particular section, and there are even less taken from the driver’s perspective (for good reason). Of course, this view has particular resonance for local commuters.

Klammer processed the photograph from color to black and white. Then, with tracing paper, she traced along the areas with the strongest contrast. She adds, “I think it works because it’s not contained in a box.” Letting the design float on the T-shirt is visually “liberating,” she says.

Klammer, by the way, now works for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, designing souvenirs for their stores. For equal time, she’s shown some love for the Golden Gate Bridge with another T-shirt design for there-there.

Here’s a video documentary of the Bay Bridge’s original construction.

When you think about what the paint color known as industrial red did for the Golden Gate Bridge, you have to ask why those in charge of the Bay Bridge decided to go gray. Whatever the case, Klammer thinks it was a mistake, aesthetically speaking.

“Gray didn’t do anything for it, that’s for sure.” She’d have chosen a vibrant green.

At this point, I suppose, the discussion is moot.


Rachael Myrow

From KQED’s Silicon Valley Bureau in San Jose, Rachael Myrow covers arts and culture in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. This follows more than seven years hosting KQED's California Report, broadcast on NPR affiliates throughout the state. She still guest hosts for The California Report and Forum, and files for NPR and PRI’s The World. Before KQED, she worked in Los Angeles for Marketplace and KPCC.

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