The Flying Thunderbird of Treasure Island

I know what you are thinking. that this post must be a hotel piece. Yawn. But wait! You are in for a treat today and we are talking about a completely different Thunderbird, one that rose to new heights while crossing Boca Ciega Bay.

I’ll wager that a few of you have driven across the TI Causeway a time or two, and perhaps have even gotten held up by the rising drawbridge. Interestingly, in September of 1973 a group of four ‘seasoned’ widows from Canada were cruising along in their most coincidentally appropriate Thunderbird when it took flight.

It seems that the driver, one Madeleine Dow, somehow missed the crossing gate, flashing lights, and air horn as the bridge was getting ready rise. Was there perhaps an ongoing heated discussion about the latest sale at the Piggly Wiggly? Or maybe discourse regarding which cafeteria offered the best coconut cream pie? It is hard to say for sure, but one thing we can be sure of is that the Thunderbird and the four ladies in the car got to see Treasure Island from a most unique perspective.

Not Amused

From what I have been able to surmise, the facts point to a case of somewhat bad decision-making on the part of the driver, who may have been receiving some advice on how to handle the crossing situation as the bridge was getting ready to rise. It appears that the ladies were actually over the split in the bridge, but panicked when they saw the predicament they were in a decided to back up instead of continuing forward. Just as they got across the line, the bridge rose. So did the ladies, with the rear wheels hanging over the back of the bridge.

This was of course a job for the crack team of rescue professionals who were quick to respond. As we can see from the photo below, they look to be doing their best to rescue the ladies who undoubtedly needed to tinkle at some point, which I think is clear from their rather un-amused demeanor.

I’m absolutely positive that is Jim Dangle from Reno 911.

Finding Fault

The bridge tender that day was one Clayton Gignac, who noted that the tower on the span had a blind spot and he could not see the trapped car as it began to rise. He became alerted as the ladies started honking their own horn, literally. There is some merit to his argument, and the situation resulted in discussion of replacing the tower with a more modern one which would not have a blind spot. Regardless, Gignac was placed on leave pending the investigation and it was further noted that at the time 4.2 million cars crossed annually, and in 35 years of the bridge’s existence their had never been a similar situation.

That said, Mrs. Dow did not help Mr. Gignac’s situation, noting to reporters that he must’ve been “sleeping on the job.”

All’s Well That Ends Well

The crazy cost of healthcare – Am I right?

The story concludes with our accidentally daring golden girls being safely rescued without further incident. They were taken to the hospital where they were offered tranquilizers and a ride home, where upon arrival they sat down to watch themselves on the news and have “not one, but two drinks.” That was followed by a couple days of reporters calling and knocking, with their story making national headlines.

A granddaughter of one of the lofty ladies sent her a telegram a few days later noting “I thought you went to Florida to see the sights, not become one.”

The ladies, firm in their resolve, opted to finish out their three month vacation, noting that there was “no reason to go back up to all that cold.” The only regret was expressed by Norah Bennett, one of the passengers in the car. She noted that they “Hadn’t received a single proposal… Surely there must be some nice widowers down here would would want at least one of four brave women.”

Perhaps, just a guess here, is that as appealing as the ladies were – the gents who owned cars might have thought twice about asking them on a date.

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Dennis Stephens
11 months ago

Very, **very** nice. Kudos to this story’s author!
I truly love St Pete Wiki, for bringing old history to light!
To those reading this: If you’ve been here long enough to want to seek obscure St Pete history, you’ve come to the right place !!

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