MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Rodney Coleman was 30 years old when he first started operating the Mystic drawbridge. Thursday is his last day.
Coleman was in charge of making sure the bridge went up and down safely and always keeping an eye on the people and cars below so boats could make their way up or downriver.
He remembered the day as a young boy when he asked his mother “what is this.” She told him it was a drawbridge.
“We were at the traffic light over that way,” Coleman told the crowd gathered at the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center. “I said ‘I want that job one day.’”
On Thursday, he ended his career after 33 years with a ceremonial opening of the bridge and a round of applause from many who have come to know him over the years. He was sent off in style with a citation and his own street sign.
“It’s really tough. I anticipated it but I didn’t expect it to feel the way I feel. You know, this is finally it,” Coleman said.
Over the years, he has seen a lot from his perch. One person drove up and over the span before it had fully come down.
“Good thing it was in the middle of the day, it would have killed people. He went right up across the street, up on the sidewalk and took out a picket fence,” Coleman said.
Some captains also caused collisions.
“You got boats slamming into the bridge,” Coleman said. “The Mayflower was the last one.”
It was a bittersweet goodbye for the now 63-year-old, handing over the controls to another generation of bridge tenders just as this bascule bridge turns 100 years old.
“Chris you got it. This is your baby. I’m all done,” Coleman told the man he trained for this job.
Several of the boaters who were waiting for the bridge to go up actually called Coleman on the radio to wish him well. They also knew he was retiring today.
“Good luck in your retirement and thank you for all your years of service,” said one captain. “Over.”
“Thank you very much, captain,” Coleman responded.