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It was a bitterly cold day 50 years ago when about 2000 people attended the official opening of the new Alexandra Bridge.
However, neither Central Otago District Council nor Transit New Zealand were aware of the bridge's anniversary until they were contacted by The News.
Central Otago District Council community facility manager Grahame Smail said it would be Transit's ‘‘responsibility'' to mark the occasion as it owned the bridge.
Transit New Zealand had no plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bridge's opening, Central Otago area engineer John Jarvis said.
‘‘It's news to me it is exactly 50 years old,'' Mr Jarvis said.
Ian Aitchison and his wife Shirley (nee King) remember the day well. They were in the Alexandra Pipe Band along with their fathers, Hughan King and Bob Aitchison. The band braved a hoarfrost to lead the procession across the bridge on July 5, 1958.
‘‘It was a very bitter, cold day,'' Mrs Aitchison said.
‘‘The coldest day I've ever played the pipes.''
The band led the procession across the bridge with the drum-major Ron Bradley out in front and Miss King and Ian Aitchison close behind him.
The couple married the following year - 49 years ago.
The procession had been slow to begin, with some of the official guests still to arrive.
‘‘The dignitaries were having lunch at what was the Alexandra Hotel, about where the Fat Badger is now,'' Mr Aitchison said.
They were having a whisky with the Minister of Works at the pub, he said.
Both the Alexandra Pipe Band and the Alexandra Brass Band played to the crowd as they waited.
‘‘We waited for ages. It was freezing cold. It was cold on the fingers on the chanters [on which bagpipers play their tune]. There was a huge crowd,'' Mrs Aitchison said.
‘‘The brass band were there, too - they closed the old bridge and the pipe band opened the new one,'' Mr Aitchison said.
The Minister of Works and National Roads board chairman, Hugh Watt, followed the band in the ministry car and cut the ribbon to commemorate the opening of the bridge. Miss King - now Mrs Aitchison - was nearby and a piece of the ribbon came her way.
‘‘I was standing right there in the cold and they handed it to me - a piece about 2ft [60cm] long. I gave the piece of ribbon to the [Alexandra] Museum with a photo of the opening of the bridge.''
Following the opening, the brass band, which originally opened the old bridge on June 1, 1882, led the procession across the old bridge to mark its official closing.
In his speech, the then mayor George Campbell congratulated the minister on the new steel bridge costing £261,000, saying it was a ‘‘magnificent structure''.
Alexandra resident George Elder, who was at the opening of the bridge, said the community had been waiting for a long time for a new bridge, as the old one-way bridge across the piers was considered unsafe.
‘‘The old one was in such a state that some of the time the passengers on buses were having to walk across the bridge,'' Mr Elder said.
‘‘The load restriction [on the bridge] was so small - for passengers, it was a safety precaution.''
The public were finding it very difficult to get across amid the traffic, he said.
‘‘You can imagine what the one-way bridge was like for people on bikes and pedestrians crossing it.''