It Was 128 Years Ago Today

So the Brooklyn Bridge is celebrating the anniversary of its opening today, in low-key fashion. Back in 1983 though, the centenary was a big deal. Lots of fireworks, and the FDR Drive was closed to cars, so people could get a good view.

I was working as a messenger for a downtown law firm at the time and brought my camera and tripod in to work, to capture the evening’s festivities.

img022Earlier that day, I was making my rounds in midtown, and as I was approaching Fifth Avenue, I noticed a blonde woman walking with her arms through those of the gentlemen on either side of her, crossing the street.

When they got to my side of the street, I realized it was Linda McCartney, and on her arm was Paul McCartney, and an older gentleman (her dad?).

They turned to cross 55th street, and as they stood waiting for the light, no one seemed to recognize them. I tapped Paul on the shoulder.

“Mr McCartney?”, I said, as I tapped Paul on the shoulder.

“Yes?” he said, turning around.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you”, he said, shaking my hand.

I only remember two more things…how beautiful Linda was; I know everyone (including me) thought of her as ‘plain’, but up close, she had a real “Ivory Snow” beauty about her. I also remember running towards Madison Avenue, looking for a payphone. I found one in a parking garage. I called my dad in his office, and when he picked up, I screamed, “I just shook hands with Paul McCartney!” My parents owned a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s, in case the hippies broke the door in, but that was about the extent of their rock & roll knowledge.

Twenty-eight years later, still, every time I see a video of McCartney, I glance at his right hand. And no, no pictures. I didn’t want to schlep my camera around on my runs, so I had left it at the office.

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  • Mary Chambers

    My grandmother, Mary Teresa Farrell, arrived in the port of New York on the day they opened the Brooklyn Bridge. She left Ireland at 14 years old to come to America to work as a domestic for a Brooklyn family. There were bands and food, people everywhere. As she walked across the bridge to Brooklyn she thought that every day in America was going to be just like that. As the family story goes, she saved her money and bought a corner store and the 3 story building above it in about 1900 (not sure where that was). In 1914 she bought a house on Second Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue) and our family members lived there until the early 1990’s.