For many years, every time I drove over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, I thought of the troll. He was put on the bridge in 1989 after the repairs to the damage caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake had been repaired. Caltrans wasn’t told he was going to be put up, an Ironworker by the name of Bill Roan, with the cooperation of his employer, Rigging International, put the troll up to protect the bridge from earthquakes. When Caltrans found out, they gave a stern warning against doing anything like this ever again, but let him stay, because they needed all the help they could get in keeping the bridge in working order.
The troll was placed on the the only portion of the bridge that failed, but protected the bridge as a whole. I will point out that the failure was by design and saved the bridge as a whole, but it was still a failure. After the bridge was repaired, you could tell you were on the failed portion because the pavement was more rough. So, every time I drove over the rough section I though of the quake. In the early 1990s, I learned of the troll’s existence and was saddened to find out that he wasn’t visible from either deck of the roadway. He was hidden from sight, quietly doing his job of keeping the bridge whole.
When the new east span of the Bay Bridge was opened in September, 2013, I got out on the bike path as soon as I could because I wanted to see the troll I had heard and though so much about doing his work of keeping that span whole. Unfortunately for me, he was removed from the old bridge, when they took it out of service to vehicle traffic on August 30th. To say I was bummed out would be an understatement of great proportion.
Today, I visited the Oakland Museum, where the troll will be on display until February. It was an awesome experience! I was able to get up close and personal with the troll, only separated by a thick pane of glass. Here’s a photo of him in all his glory.
The Oakland Museum commissioned three local story tellers to write stories about how the troll came to be on the Bridge. : Mia Paschal, Kirk Waller, and Tim Ereneta each told us their story of how the troll came to be on the bridge. In attendance was Bill Roan, the man who made the troll. It was an awesome event with some wonderful stories about how the troll got to be there!
Oh, yeah, there is a new troll protecting the new east span of the Bay Bridge, but it’s not generally known where he’s working!