Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day Traffic Jam and Picnic: 1973

Afterwards, nobody seemed to know who first thought of repairing the U. S. Highway 73 bridge over the Loonfoot River during that Labor Day weekend, 37 years ago. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

That Friday afternoon, August 31, 1973, at 5:30, barriers went up and a crew began work on the bridge. The nearest north-south roads at the time were several miles away.

Work was almost completed Monday afternoon, when vacationers from Minnesota's lake country started pouring down Highway 73, past the detour signs.

No more than a hundred southbound cars were stopped on the highway by the time the Highway Patrol and police from several towns started sorting the mess out.

Frustrated drivers were getting turned around and pointed toward the detour, when a semi came barreling down the road. The cab went off the west side of the road. The back end slewed around. The wheels fell into the east ditch, dropping the fifty-foot trailer across the pavement.

Frank Anderson had been watching the excitement from his Lakeview Diner. Like good neighbors, he and his staff put together a sort of impromptu picnic. Those vacationers got home hours later than they planned: but they did get a free meal out of it.

Mr. Anderson explained to me that he figured it was worth it, in good will. It wasn't his fault that the 1973 oil crisis started about a month later. The Lakeview Diner closed its doors in the fall of 1974.

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