Yestermen With Titanium Balls: F. Bert Farquharson at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1940
He’s the man who saves the woman from falling off of Mt. Rushmore–all without taking off his tie. The polar opposite would be the Jackass pussies who do purposeless things with complete vanity.
F. Bert Farquharson is one such yesterman.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge Is Ready To Collapse
On November 7, 1940, the Tacoma Narrows, south of Seattle, Washington, was beset with gale force winds. According to the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), by early morning the Tacoma Narrows Bridge began
undulating, “galloping,” with several waves 2 to 5 feet high. At 7:30 a.m. the wind measured 38 miles per hour. Two hours later, engineers clocked the wind at 42 miles per hour near the bridge’s east end.
Because “Galloping Gertie,” as it was nicknamed, was a suspension bridge, it had the ability to flex, bend, and ripple, all without breaking–for the moment, as least. Galloping Gertie was the world’s third largest suspension bridge.
Tubby the Dog is Trapped
By now, spectators, bridge officials, and newsmen had begun to gather on both ends of the bridge, with a number of them still cautiously driving across the bridge.
One such newsman, Leonard Coatsworth, of the Tacoma News-Tribune, was actually there not as a newsman. He was driving toward his summer cottage on the Olympic Peninsula. In the back seat was his black cocker spaniel, Tubby.
Coatsworth did not complete his trip across the bridge. The bouncing bridge threw his car against the curb, and Coatsworth managed to crawl from the window and stumble back toward the East Tower, a good 480 yards away. Coatsworth later said of his escape from the bridge:
On hands and knees most of the time, I crawled 500 yards or more to the towers…My breath was coming in gasps; my knees were raw and bleeding, my hands bruised and swollen from gripping the concrete curb…Toward the last, I risked rising to my feet and running a few yards at a time…
One problem: Tubby was still trapped in the car.
Enter Frederick Bert Farquharson!
F. Bert Farquharson (1895-1970), a professor of engineering at the University of Washington, had been involved with fixing wind-related engineering issues on Gertie prior to this gale. When he heard about the problems with the bridge, he hopped in his car and drove an hour south from his home in Seattle.
When he reached the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Farquharson began filming the bridge from various angles. After hearing about the predicament with Tubby trapped in the car, Farquharson decided to walk out onto the bridge and save Tubby.
Two huge problems. First, by this time, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was shaking so wildly, one edge of the bridge was often as much as 28 feet higher than the other side. Second, concrete chunks of the bridge had already begun to fall off.
Another problem that no one knew at the time: the bridge was only 6 minutes from collapse.
Prof. Farquharson Tries To Save Tubby
Farquharson ventured over 1,000 feet to Coatsworth’s abandoned car. But when he tried to grab Tubby, the dog bit his finger. Realizing that this was a lost cause and that his own life was at stake, Farquharson wisely retreated. WSDOT tells us:
Farquharson ran from the East Tower toward the Toll Plaza, covering the 1,100 feet of the side span length as fast as his legs could carry him. He followed the centerline, where he knew there was least motion. Twice, the roadway dropped 60 feet, faster than gravity, then bounced upward, finally settling into a 30-foot deep sag.
But here’s what propels Farquharson to true titanium-balls status. When he arrives at the end of the bridge, he is still dressed in his tie and trenchcoat, and holding his pipe.
If you didn’t catch that: wearing his tie and holding his pipe.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapses
By 11:10am, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge–good ol’ Galloping Gertie–had fully collapsed, into the cold waters of the narrows.
A video of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The section with Farquharson, aplomb intact and pipe in hand, begins at 2:05. Be sure to mute the sound, so you don’t have to listen to the nasty New Age music that the YouTuber put on this video.