Haunted Highway, Part 1
By Patrick Ahern
Driving along Highway 30 one recent evening, my eye caught a mysterious building sitting vacant and derelict in a wash of moonlight. I have noticed this structure before, as I have approached the St. Johns Bridge, and often wondered about its history. It looks somewhat like a school, or perhaps an early years train station. Its stately clock tower is now devoid of hands and its multiple windows long ago surrendered their glass to vandals, yet there is a lingering elegance just barely imaginable in its solid bones. My curiosity moves me to investigate its history, admitting my thoughts of gossamer ghosts and mysterious chiming of bell towers are motivating me most.
My initial research wasn’t very scientific… I simply asked around the neighborhood if anyone knew that building’s background. You don’t have to look very far up here to find someone to tell you a story! “Well”, says he, “That building has been around since the early 1900s. I don’t quite remember its use, but I think I know what caused it to be deserted. It was constructed of solid materials with many architectural features, including a clock tower to add to the neighborhood feeling of Linnton. It was therein that its eventual demise rested.
Shortly after the building’s finish and occupation, the United States joined several other nations in establishing Daylight Savings Time on March 19, 1918. Well, considering all of the confusion that occurs around the changeover in modern days, one can only imagine what it must have been like in its first year. The shiny new building, with its magnificent clock tower, was just beginning to settle into its routine maintenance schedule, when suddenly a major readjustment of its new clock machinery was necessitated, and making things worse…in the dead of night!
The maintenance supervisor, Iam Fullymodo, was assigned the task. He was still unfamiliar with the mechanism, a spring-loaded concoction of gears and pulleys, and had a tendency to drink a little after the sun went down. Still, he was willing to attempt the task, and struggled up a ladder to adjust the hands of the clock at the appointed hour of 2:00 a.m. It might have been the schnapps; it might have been the newness of the event, but either way, he became confused about just what he was supposed to do with the clock, and how to set it to comply with the new time requirements. The building’s owner, watching from the ground below, shouted his encouragement: “Spring Forward; Fall Back”! “Spring Forward; Fall Back”! “Ah,” said Fullymodo! “I understand!“
Jumping forward to compress the main drive spring, he was able to push the hour hand ahead to the “three” position. Then, as directed, he fell back, skidding down the new cedar shingles, bouncing off the new copper gutters, and coming to his final resting place under the wheels of an oncoming passenger train bound for Astoria. The owner was aghast. Collapsing in tears, he vowed to close the building in memory of his recently departed employee. And so, there it sits, attacked by the elements, painfully eroded, and eerily silent except at 2:00 a.m. when clocks are changed to daylight savings time, and a faint whistle is heard from the vapors of an excursion train on it’s way to Astoria.”
Never ask for history from a person with a twinkle in his eye! Stayed tuned for the next Ridge Runner for the REAL Story!