Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lorain's Central High Level Bridge Collapses – April 1, 1947

Readers of the Lorain Journal were treated to a startling image on the front of the April 1, 1947 edition (above): a photo of the collapsed High Level Bridge (now known as the Lofton Henderson Memorial Bridge).

Here's a closeup view of the photo and caption (below).
The caption reads: "The Lorain Central high level bridge fell today. Miraculously no one was killed or injured and with river traffic as yet unopened, there was little or no interference with navigation. In fact, the calamity attracted unbelievably little attention. Lorain police and the sheriff's office expressed surprise when asked about it, while members of the Central Lorain Business Men's association sputtered with indignation when it was hinted that the seeming indifference indicated the bridge was little used. They even went so far as to deny that anything had happened to the giant span. However, the above picture, obtained thru the alertness of Journal Photographer William Asbolt and the engraving ingenuity of Earl Frank, shows the great steel center section of the bridge shattered and dangling in the river below. The picture is proof that the Central high level bridge fell today – fell for a gag, an April 1 gag."
Here's the accompanying article (below).
Did You Fall for Gag? Lorain's Bridge Didn't
Historians Disagree How April Fool's Day Started 
But Acknowledge Custom's Now Universal
Believe it or not, this sort of nonsense has been going on on April 1 for more than 300 years, and nobody seems to know exactly why.
Don't be too critical of The Journal for getting into the spirit of the occasion. Newspapers have played dirtier tricks than the collapsed bridge picture on their readers. A favorite with editors is to run pictures about sea monsters or two-headed animals or the birth of sextuplets.
Perhaps the most ridiculous newspaper stunt was a German picture published in some America papers April 1, 1933, which showed a man flying thru the air on his own lung power.
How It All Started
Who started all the April Fools day commotion has never been clearly ascertained.
Some historians blame the Romans, who had a feast of Saturnalia in February at which practical jokers competed to see who could be the biggest pest.
Others trace the custom to the Hindus, who even today drop their usually sober and restrained behavior on March 31 in favor of a little horseplay.
The London Public Advertiser, an eighteenth century trade paper started the theory that April Fools day was originally in observance of Noah's classic error in sending the dove out on a premature scouting expedition.
The theory most generally accepted, however, is that April Fools day is a hangover from the old Julian calendar which was discontinued in the 16th century. Under the Julian system, New Year's day was celebrated on March 25, believed the first day of spring. Festivities went on for eight days, climaxing in a festival on April 1.
When Charles XI of France adopted the Georgian calendar in 1564, New Year's day was transferred to Jan. 1. A number of diehards insisted on celebrating the April 1 festival tradition. Soon they became known by their more progressive neighbors as "April Fools."
Today April 1 is celebrated a lot more enthusiastically in Europe than in the U. S. The English custom, which goes back to the 18th century, is to send "suckers" – called "noddies" or "gawbies" – on "sleeveless" errands to purchase a pint of pigeon's milk or some hen's teeth or a book entitled "A History of Eve's Grandmother."
The French call their victims "April fish." A favorite Gallic trick is to send the village yokel in search of a stick with only one end. The biggest "April fish" in French history is supposed to be Napoleon, who married his first wife, Maria Louisa, on April 1 and regretted it not long afterwards.
The Scots probably go to more trouble than anyone else, however. Pranksters give the "gowk" – literally the Scotch word for cuckoo – a message to deliver. When he arrives at his destination, he is told the message is for somebody else and off he goes again. The message itself is usually in rhyme form:
"This the first of April.
Hunt the gowk another mile."
The Lisbon observance is probably the most effective, if the sloppiest. In that Portuguese city, pranksters simply throw ashes and flour in each others' faces.

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