Eighty years ago, Walter Parker and his brother, Herbert, were the first people to cross the new Lisbon-Durham bridge, in a Model A, no less. On Monday, July 11, Parker will become the first person to cross the just-completed $6 million bridge over the Androscoggin River.

Following a ribbon-cutting event at 1 p.m., Parker will start on the Lisbon Falls side of the new bridge and cross over to Durham. Then, he’ll turn around to become the last person to travel the old bridge, which is still standing, next to the new one. The old bridge will be closed from then on.

Parker, 94, was a teen living in Durham at the time of his first crossing. Today, the popular man about town lives in Lisbon, the last surviving member of Clarence and Mary Parker’s 11 children. His father had a cobbler’s shop, C.W. Parker, in Lisbon Falls, which later was called Walter Parker Shoe Repair.

“I was the youngest boy,” Parker said. “I learned the whole business. I had to shut it up to go into the service in World War II. We opened back up after the war, but it slowed down,  and I went to work at the Worumbo mill.”

Parker served in England, France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany, first with the Army Signal Corps and then as a truck driver.

He’s proud of being selected to do the honors at the bridge ceremony.

“I call it a very big privilege that they would choose me,” Parker said from his home of 41 years on Frost Hill. “I lived longer than the old bridge.”

The Maine Department of Transportation worked with the town of Lisbon and the Lisbon Historical Society to choose someone for the ceremonial first and last trips.

There was no ceremony to mark the opening of the new bridge in 1936, months after the flooded Androscoggin destroyed the previous iron bridge and severely damaged the Worumbo textile mill. But Parker and his brother made the most of its opening.

“My brother and I stayed on the Durham side,” Parker said. “Somehow we knew when the bridge was going to open, and we were the first. We were in a Model A Ford.”

On July 11, Parker will ride across the new bridge in a 1934 Model A Roadster convertible. He still drives, but he’ll be a passenger on this trip, making it easier for him to wave to spectators and enjoy the view. Appropriately, his nephew, Ron Parker, the late Herbert’s son, will do the driving.

The roadster was arranged for through Billy Stevens of Bill Stevens Auto Shop & Body, where Parker pays daily visits to chat with “the boys.”

“He’s had quite a storied life,” Stevens said. “He’s got a new story every day. Everybody who comes in here knows Walter Parker. He’s got his name in chrome here.”

In addition to visits at the auto shop, Parker has coffee every morning with Alfred Smith, a member of the Lisbon Historical Society. Then, he crosses the river to have lunch at the Durham Get & Go, a favorite of Parker and his  wife, Blanche, who died a few months ago. The couple would always order the same salad – greens with diced chicken and sliced tomatoes, store owner Donna Church said, and Parker continues to order it today.

“He’s in here every day,” Church said. “A sweetheart. He and his wife had their birthday and anniversary parties here.”

As noontime approaches, clerk Shannon Emerson watches for Parker in his maroon Buick, and meets him at the door.

“I absolutely adore him,” Emerson said.

Parker always sits in the same chair, with his back to the wall.

“That’s so he can watch everybody coming in,”  Church said.

Parker said he uses a tip his wife of 73 years gave him on getting along with people.

“Leave a lot unsaid,” he said.

Walter Parker gets out of his car to have lunch last Thursday at the Durham Get & Go. Parker, a Durham native who lives across the river in Lisbon Falls, is a regular lunch customer at the Get & Go.

Walter Parker of Lisbon Falls sits at his usual spot last Thursday at the Durham Get & Go dining area.

Walter Parker gestures as he waits for his usual order, the “Parker salad,” last Thursday at the Durham Get & Go.

Walter Parker, who will be the first to cross the Lisbon-Durham bridge following ceremonies on July 11, sits down to his usual salad lunch at the Durham Get & Go.


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