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TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE AND JESS W. READ, M.D.
The Doctor and the Bridge
Jess Read, MD as told to his son, Tom Read
How is a prominent
Tacoma, Washington Physician and Surgeon connected with the original
Tacoma Narrows Bridge?
What part did Dr.
Jess Read play in the history of the 1940 Narrows Bridge?
(November 9th, 2015)
- Seventy-five years ago today, November 9th, 1940, residents of
Tacoma, Washington turned on the local radio news on KMO and KVI and
learned that the Tacoma Narrows Bridge had collapsed into the cold
and wind driven water below.
It was reported
at the time, and years later in various stories about the
construction problems with the bridge, that my father, Dr. Jess W.
Read, was the last person in a car to cross the bridge.
What has not been reported in
the history books is why my father was crossing the Narrows Bridge
that morning, or that he took most of the pictures that have been
published through the years of the bridge collapsing, and how it
happened that dad had cameras with him that morning.
To understand the fascinating
story, you need to know a little about Jess Read. He was a
Stanford medical graduate as was his father before him, Wilmot D.
Read, M.D. Growing up, Jess loved and studied photography.
I have always referred to dad as an "amateur-professional
photographer". Obviously an amateur because his profession was
medicine. But he was truly a professional photographer.
Serving on General George
Patton's medical staff, dad was cleared to take pictures during the
war. I remember him showing me home movies which were actually
documentaries. Dad had a complete film developing lab in the
basement of our home in Tacoma.
It was well known by 1938 that
Tacoma was promoting the idea of a bridge to connect Tacoma with the
Gig Harbor area. What better subject for one of Dr. Read's
film documentaries than the construction of a 2800 foot bridge that
would be the third longest span, at the time, in the world.
From the very beginning, dad
told me, he starting filming the building of the bridge. Some
of the contractors were taking still pictures as the construction
went along, but dad was the only known photographer filming a
documentary on the building of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Dad was out at the bridge
construction site so often, he became known to the contractors,
workers, and later, employees.
The bridge was dedicated on July
1, 1940 with a speech by then Washington Governor Clarence Martin,
which of course was carried on KMO and I think also on KVI, Tacoma's
two radio stations at the time.
Dad became aware almost
immediately of the left to right rolling sensation of the bridge
while driving across from Tacoma to Bremerton and back, taking
motion pictures on every trip, while mother or other friends did the
Heavy bags were attached to each
side of the bridge in an effort to stabilize the motion of the
roadway. The two lanes were very narrow because the bridge
itself was narrow. Dad indicated it was almost a tight fit
when cars passed each other going in opposite directions. So
on windy days when the roadway way rolling, it was a little
unsettling. All of this dad caught on movie film.
Because of this motion of the
cement roadway, especially on windy November days, people starting
referring to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge as "Galloping Gertie".
Seventy-five years ago on a
windy, chilly morning of November 7th, 1940; the movement of the
bridge was worse than ever. Winds reached gusts of 40 plus miles
per hour. Dad was making his early morning rounds at the
hospital and was planning on going out to the bridge to take more
pictures after lunch. So he had his cameras in his car.
He received a phone call at the hospital, according to my mother,
from a friend who worked in the toll booth on the Tacoma side of the
bridge. He told dad that there was really violent
movement in the bridge both left to right but now he could see the
roadway moving up and down. He told dad he should get
out to the bridge right away.
Having just finished seeing his
last patient, dad corralled someone at the hospital to come with him
and drive his car to the Narrows Bridge. From the Tacoma toll
booth, it appeared that the bridge had settled down a bit so dad's
car was allowed to go across the bridge. But within seconds
the wind was stronger than ever and the toll booth closed the bridge
on both ends.
That is important because no
one, no car was allowed to go onto the bridge after dad's car.
About that time, photographers and reporters started to arrive at
the Tacoma side but were not allowed to walk or drive over the
Jess W. Read was the ONLY person who was driving across the bridge
taking pictures from the passenger side of the front seat.
Dad told me he held the movie camera totally still and you can see
in the pictures that the cement roadway of the bridge rose so high
as to totally obscure your vision. All you could see out the
window of the car and in his motion pictures, was cement in front of
you. That was a frightening sight. I asked dad if he
felt the bridge was about to collapse and he said yes that because
the roadway was now not only moving from left to right but also up
and down. It became obvious that the structure could not stand
an up and down motion and a cross motion at the same time.
God was with dad as he finally
got the car to the end of the bridge on the Bremerton, Gig Harbor
side. He immediately stopped safely, and turned around and
started taking pictures of the bridge looking back toward Tacoma.
I made a point of asking him if there were any other photographers
on that side of the bridge and he said that he was the only one.
The pictures show that the first
section to raise in the air, split open, and plummet to the icy
water below, was closer to the Bremerton side then the Tacoma side
of the bridge and that is why dad got such a great picture of that
You have seen, I am sure, many
of dad's pictures taken that fateful day. However, assumptions
have been made through the years that pictures of the first section
to go down were taken by a newspaper and private photographer.
But that generally was not the case. Remember that no
one was allowed on the bridge after dad's car and press cameras in
1940 did not have zoom lens as we have today. They were big
4x5 sheet film cameras like you see in old movies. Those
cameras were simply not able to "zoom" in for a close up of the
section of the bridge closer to Bremerton.
Dad's position on the Bremerton
side of the bridge, is what made those pictures possible.
What happened to dad's pictures,
movies and stills, and his documentary on the bridge from day one?
Not being a reporter or in the commercial photography business, dad
told me he donated his pictures so that they could be used by
historians. From what I can tell, somewhere along the way, the
original group to which dad donated his films, sold or made them
available to others as they have shown up through the years with no
photographic credit to Dr. Jess Read and in fact I have seen some
credited to all sorts of firms, individuals, and organizations.
Dad was obviously not looking for fame or publicity by virtue of his
Narrows Bridge pictures or his first hand experience as the last car
to go across the bridge. However, others did so.
Dad was too professional and too busy in the medical profession.
Dad and his friend from the
hospital had to drive home the long way through Olympia to get back
to Tacoma. I think the toll booth friend of dads, who phoned
him at the hospital, told reporters that Dr. Read was the last car
to safely make it across the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
So by the time dad got back to Tacoma, KMO and KVI were calling
wanting dad to come on the air and share his first hand report.
KMO in 1940 I think was
affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System radio network and as
I recall, dad said he was on the coast to coast Mutual network from
the KMO studios in downtown Tacoma, nation wide. KVI was the
CBS Radio Network affiliate for Tacoma and later that evening dad
was also coast to coast on CBS from the Rust Building studios of
Now you know "the rest of the
story". How a well known Tacoma MD knew so much about
and was part of the history of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
An interesting PS to the story
is the fact that Hallett French, an insurance agent from Seattle,
served time in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
French was convicted of grand larceny as he deposited $8000.00 in
premium funds for insurance on the bridge, in his personal bank
account without paying the premium to his firm.
Can you imagine the shock that
Hallett French must have felt as he very possibly heard Dr. Jess
Read on the local Mutual and CBS radio affiliates talk about the
collapse of the Narrows Bridge on a local Idaho radio station where
he was vacationing?
Moses Lake and Ephrata, home of KTBI and KTAC, can be justly proud that
the national title holder, Mrs. America, is Natalie Luttmer. Yes,
Mrs. America 2017 is a resident of Moses Lake and the former Mrs.
Washington 2016, and Mrs. Moses Lake. Natalie, pictured above with ACN's
Melinda Read, who was covering the Mrs. Washington Pageant 2017 for KTBI and
KTAC and appeared on stage at the Pageant as a former Mrs. Washington.
of you have asked for a daily teaching ministry with sermons that would not
hesitate to share what the Bible says about such subjects as same-sex marriage,
cults, the Muslim religion and many other topics that are involved with our
society and daily living today.
You asked and ACN has responded with the
teaching of Dr. Robert Jeffress at 11am on your ACN
network affiliated station. His program is called "Pathway
Dr. Jeffress is not afraid to take a Biblical
stand on what some consider to be too controversial. While a pastor in
Wichita Falls in 1998, Jeffress sought to have two children's books about
children with gay or lesbian parents removed from the public library.
In 2008 Jeffress, shared what the Bible said in
a sermon entitled "Gay Is Not OK".
This is a pastor that will deliver daily,
Biblically based messages, that fulfills the addition that many ACN listeners
Dr. John G. Mitchell on the Unchanging Word
program is now heard daily at 3:30pm to provide the most powerful
afternoon teaching hour on Christian Radio. He is teamed with James
MacDonald from 3 to4pm on your local ACN network affiliated Christian station.
1050 AM is now back home, back where it started
with the best Bible teachers in the country, as the newest affiliate of the
American Christian Network. KFIO, The Magnificent 1050 AM, provides
Christian programming to a wide area previously without local Christian
radio. Reception reports have been phenomenal . For
your reception report, email KFIO@KFIO.info.
History of 1050 AM and the historic KFIO call letters click
On Washington" is one of Seattle's most popular radio programs among Christians.
It is produced through the Salem Christian stations in Seattle and has been a
primary source of "straight talk" about state and national issues of importance
to Christians, from a Biblical perspective.
The program features Pastor Marty McClendon and Doug Basler. A
special state wide weekly version of Eyes On Washington
is now heard Saturdays at its new time of 11am on the full ACN radio network.
Pastor McClendon can be reached by mail at the following address:
PMB 173, 5500 Olympic Drive, Suite H 105, Gig Harbor, Washington 98335.
Telephone 1 800 738 1474.
mentioned on his November 9th program on ACN that Dr. Jess Read was the last
person to cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge before it went down in 1940.
Yes, that was Tom Read's father. Now, you can read the rest of the story.
James Dobson and his son have a new program, Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk,
weekdays at 6pm, exclusively on ACN.
Have Dinner With
Dobson weekdays at 6pm on ACN
On EYE ON, Sundays at 12:30pm, On EYE ON
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Unchanging Word with Dr. Mitchell Now On Each Weekday At 3:30pm.
Listen to Patriot Radio with
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Coins Plus, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4pm and again at
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God, Family and
Country with David Taylor Guest: Jason Overstreet
This week, on God, Family
and Country, June 24th,
David and Jason continue
their look at the now third
Special Session. The June
Taxation ... I mean, Revenue
Forecast came out and the
numbers are essentially
flat. David and Jason also
discuss Virginia Governor
Terry McAuliffe's "Fuzzy
Math" on gun homicides.
Finally, Jason and David
discuss the newly formed
Climate Confederacy. Hear
all this and more, this
week, on God, Family and
ACN : Saturday 10:30am
It Seems To Me
with TOM READ Guest:
Host Tom Read (www.tomread.info) and Bible teacher
Ashley Possin discuss the research that indicates a large number of
Christians do not really know what the Bible says.
This leads Christians to be persuaded by the media
to accept that which is truly non Biblical. This is the importance of
solid Bible teaching that relates to our every day living. The program
will also share news about Ashley's new Bible teaching program beginning
July 15th on KTW 630 AM and KTW 96.5 FM.
Saturday 8:30am, 12 Noon, 4:00pm, 5:30pm Sunday
KTW - 630 AM 96.5 FM: Saturday:
6:00am, 8:00am, 1:00pm Sunday: 7:30am, 10:00am, 5:30pm
Liberty and Posterity with Ron Higgins
Liberty and Posterity radio program scheduled to be broadcast this
Saturday, June 24, 2017. The program documents how our society's ethics and
morality are legally based on the Bible via the Declaration of Independence,
which is the first of the four organic laws of the United States. The
program also explains how the current push to force sexual anarchy on our
society is a threat to our liberty, and how the Secretary of Education fails
to actively defend the health, safety, or Constitutional rights of parents
and children from the onslaught of lies and depravity that politicians who
support this sexual anarchy movement are forcing on our schools.
ACN Network: Saturday 10:00am
LBS Network: KTW - 630 AM and 96.5 FM Sunday 1:30PM
John Jacob Schmidt Program
Are you a libertarian? A
conservative? Or a liberal? You might be surprised. Join
John Jacob this Saturday on KTW, June 24th, when he outlines the differences
between the libertarian, the liberal, and what most of us are without even
realizing it – ‘Classical Liberals’. It’s not about labels, it’s
about taking back the narrative in a world that is attempting to malign
Christian patriots by redefining us and what we stand for.
LBS Network: KTW - 630 AM and 96.5 FM Saturdays 9:00am
JOHN LOEFFLER'S STEEL ON STEEL - The
Alternative News Radio on KTW Sundays at Noon
and on ACN Saturdays at 6pm.
06/24/2017 It's a One-World After All- Tolerance and
inclusivity are great things – until they aren't. In this week's
boralogue, John looks at hypocrisy from the Left, comparing reactions after
the Arlington baseball field shooting with those following the Oklahoma City
bombing in 1995. Everything we have been told by progressive elites
for the past three decades about tolerance and equality have been ignored
and violated by the very same progressives in recent years.
Globalists are always lurking
around every corner, pulling the strings on societal issues. We
welcome back historian and Former Senior Associate at the Department of
Education Dr. Dennis Cuddy (www.newswithviews.com)
who note only discusses the deep state's ties to globalism and the history
of corruption with the one-world movement, but also predicts where the
globalists are taking us and when that will happen.
The Muslim month of Ramadan is
coming to a close and it has been one of the most violent in history.
Shahram Hadian (www.tilproject.com),
Founder of the Truth In Love Project and a former Muslim draws on his
expertise of Islam to explain what the Koran says about Ramadan as well as
the real facts about sharia law and how it is not compatible with the U.S.
John’s quote of the week:
"This elite progressive group in the last 30
months has violated every single standard they have ever preached at us
regarding tolerance, diversity, inclusivity, equality, hate speech, etc.
They do not believe what they have preached. When it comes to the
elections in 2018 and 2020, this group has demonstrated that they are
singularly unfit to lead a nation such as ours."
NOTE: John has lost one of his sponsors due to sudden unemployment.
We need a new family to step forward as a participating sponsor to keep John on
the air. Email
ACN@ACN.cc and tell us the
monthly amount you can invest in freedom by helping to sponsor John.
Steel on Steel is made possible and sponsored by
Eric Katzer of Westcoast Window Cleaning of Spokane. Phone 509 325 9484.
ACN announces the program "Hear It
Again". The purpose is to hear again some of the great Bible
teaching radio programs of the 40s and 50s. The series is now
presenting historic programs of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour.
"Hear It Again" is being aired Sundays at 10pm.
The story of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour
traces the history of religious broadcasting in the United States.
For the background and history of this program that featured Dr. Charles E.
Fuller, click on the
Mity Mike says,
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