“Public Enemy Number One”

Connecting With The Outside World by Robert M. Danielson

The package felt like it might contain a book – a heavy book – and had been mailed to me Par Avion from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  It was from Robert Danielson – a name that sounds familiar, though I don’t think I know him.

Within the carefully taped bubble-wrapping was a 125+ page book, chock-a-block full of information quoted from historic documents, maps, charts, and copies of stunning old photographs.  The title:  CONNECTING WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD – Construction of the National Park (1913-1918) and Ocean Beach Highway (1919-1934).  The accompanying letter began: “Hi Sydney, We have read your recent article on place names which helped familiarize us with your part of Pacific County…”

I think the “article” Mr. Danielson is referencing is the recent Sou’wester magazine issue I wrote, A Sense Of Place – Names of the North Beach Peninsula.  There is nothing that warms this author’s cockles more than knowing that something I’ve researched and written has actually helped another historian.  But, the surprises weren’t over.

Senator H.A. Espy at his desk, 1911

As I flipped through the pages, my grandfather’s name, Harry A. Espy, caught my eye.  I checked the index and, sure enough!  He appears on page 65 in a section called The Naselle River Toll Bridge: Public Enemy Number One.  There, in the fourth paragraph of that section, I read:

With no plan and no money appropriated in 1927 to resolve the bridge problem, the matter was left to sizzle through the summer as other parts of the road were being improved; there were plenty of needs to go around.  On September 7 “the war on [the] toll bridge” was renewed by Harry A. Espy, former State Senator and president of the Pacific County Taxpayers League, in a presentation to the County Commissioners.  Based on data collected by Senator Norman, an “implacable foe of the toll bridge from its inception,” Espy cited data that showed the Pacific County Bridge Company had, in 1926, experienced extremely large profits from operating the bridge.  The bridge tolls totaled $26,354 with disbursements of $5,607, and allowing for deprecation, the profits taken in the form of dividends to the shareholders were what he considered to be excessive.  It was recommended that an investigation be made to substantially reduce the tolls and eliminate them entirely for county vehicles.  This seemed to be a softening of the previous positions that called for total elimination of tolls an impossible choice as long as the operation or tolls, an impossible choice as long as the operation of the bridge was in private hands.

Poster in Oct. 4, 1929 North Beach Tribune, Page 69 Connecting With The Outside World

I knew that Papa had been concerned about roads during his term as State Senator and, in fact, during the 12th Legislative Session in 1911, he served on a number of Senate committees including the one on Roads and Bridges.  But if I had ever known that he was an advocate of toll-free bridges, I had forgotten.  Way to go, Papa!  And a HUGE thank you to Bob and Barbara Danielson for their kindness in sending me a copy of their handsome book.  I shall read it with interest!

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