© 2023 KRCU Public Radio
90.9 Cape Girardeau | 88.9-HD Ste. Genevieve 88.7 Poplar Bluff
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
All SEMO campuses will be closed Wednesday, Feb. 1. All classes cancelled and offices closed due to winter weather.
Almost Yesterday is a glimpse into the rich history of our region. Dr. Frank Nickell takes listeners on a journey to specific moments in time, such as the first radio broadcast on KFVS, the history of Farmington’s Carleton College, and the short-lived safari on a Mississippi River island. A gifted storyteller and local historian, Dr. Nickell’s wit and love for the past are combined with sounds and music that augment his narrative.On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Almost Yesterday received First Place in the "Special Programs" category at the Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet in Kansas City, Missouri.Almost Yesterday airs every Wednesday at 5:42 and 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Almost Yesterday: The Freeing of the Bridge

Almost Yesterday
Southeast Missouri State University
Almost Yesterday

It seems like almost yesterday that Claude Miller accepted the final passenger toll paid to cross the Mississippi River bridge at Cape Girardeau. The bridge was to become free at 5:30 a.m.on June 29, 1957. At 5:29 a.m. Jerry Burchet of McClure, Illinois, reached out of the window of his pie truck and handed his fee to Mr. Miller so that he could cross the bridge into Illinois.

One minute later, Harold McBride became the first person to cross the free bridge when he drove his Kimball Company truck back into Missouri from Illinois. In the first 12 hours after collections stopped, 4,370 vehicles crossed the bridge. Twelve year-old George Bachhorst, Jr. won an all expense paid trip for two to New York City by correctly guessing the number of vehicles which would cross the bridge on that historic day.

All of Cape Girardeau celebrated the day of the big bridge freeing. There was a motorcade, speeches, a ribbon-cutting; two queens, a Miss Illinois and Miss Missouri. People danced in front of the Frisco station on Main Street and although rain postponed the evening's fireworks display, nearly 20,000 people returned on Sunday evening to finish the celebration.

Cape Girardeau officials understood the impact this change would have on the city. Rush Limbaugh, the distinguished attorney, said, "We have had a free bridge placed in our hands. May we be worthy of it."

Three days later the toll house was removed and the bridge could be crossed without stopping. It seems like Almost Yesterday.

Frank Nickell is a retired history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
Related Content