They that go down
to the sea in ships that do business—or find their pleasure—in great waters,
these, according to Scripture, see the works of the Lord. But as civilization
advances, the works of the Lord are often obscured by the works of man. In
times past, when the nation's waterways were her most reliable avenues of
travel and ships with tall masts carried the burden of her freight, the way of
the sailor was sacrosanct. Law and custom alike frowned on the obstruction of a
sailor's God-given right of way by man-made obstacles, and for years the
protection of the nation's inland waterways has been entrusted to those most
responsible for the nation's defenses—her soldiers.
Under the General
Bridge Act of 1946, the final authority for permitting the erection of bridges
over navigable waterways was once again given to the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, but the responsibility which it entailed had undergone great changes
over the years. The wind-borne sailor was no longer a vital link in the
nation's defense or its economy; his tall ship was no longer a commercial
necessity but an idle luxury. In Jacksonville last week these facts became
pitifully evident as the conscientious Corps of Engineers held a day-long
hearing to weigh the pros and cons of a plan to lower from 80 to 55 feet the
minimum bridge clearances required to span the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway,
a vast chain of bays, inlets, rivers and canals which carries thousands of
yachtsmen yearly from New Jersey to Florida.
the yachtsmen present to defend the present clearance minimum was an impressive
array of spokesmen for the Navy, the Coast Guard, the American Automobile
Association, the American Association of State Highway Officials, the
Department of Commerce's Bureau of Public Roads, and other organizations,
public and private, all of whom, for one reason or another, were in favor of
lower—and hence cheaper—bridges. To the layman and the landlubber there seemed
little question of who was in the right. One of the sailormen present admitted
that there were only some 3,000 yachts afloat in this country with masts over
50 feet tall. A survey taken by the Army revealed that only 1.7% of vessels
using the waterway over the last six months needed the higher clearance. The
yachtsmen's argument, said one highway official, concerned only a "very
small minority of vessel owners."
Yet, despite the
obvious economic weaknesses of the yachtsmen's stand, there was a principle
involved which could not be lightly overlooked. Democracy is not always a
matter of the greatest good for the greatest number. It involves in equal
measure the protection of minority rights. No economic argument can counter the
fact that a right once abrogated is seldom restored. No cry of commercial
expedience can restore the easy navigability of a landlocked channel rendered
useless by a low bridge too hastily built.
St. Louis After
could have stayed home. His ankle was still badly swollen, the result of torn
ligaments and a chip fracture suffered in the third game of the World Series of
basketball between the Boston Celtics and the St. Louis Hawks. The injury was a
week and a half old and would take another two weeks to heal properly. And it
Celtic teammates were in St. Louis, preparing for the sixth game of the
playoffs, and St. Louis led 3 to 2. One more St. Louis victory and the series
would be over. Russell fretted away at home in Reading, Mass. until the
afternoon before the game. Then he got on a plane and flew to St. Louis.
He arrived at the
Jefferson Hotel a little after midnight. He limped into the dim, nearly
deserted lobby, and there were his coach, Red Auerbach, teammates Bob Cousy and
Tom Heinsohn and a reporter.
said Auerbach, "what are you doing here, and how does it feel?"