Joppa man records rebuilding of bridge HARFORD COUNTY

December 20, 1992|By Diane Bates | Diane Bates,Contributing Writer

Remember when the two-lane Winters Run Bridge in Joppa was rebuilt? If you missed the nine-month project and would like to see the construction in progress, don't worry. You can see it happen in living color.

The construction project has been preserved on video tape and in photographs by William D. Rassa, a 72-year-old Joppa resident and a retired Conrail worker. On Feb. 23, he give an edited tape -- far less than the 20 hours or so that he filmed -- of the bridge construction to the Historical Society of Harford County.

Mr. Rassa became so involved in the bridge as he recorded its reconstruction that he was almost like one of the workers. He has had the same attachment to the other Harford County scenes he has photographed while building a visual library of slices of county life.

He decided to chronicle the reconstruction of the bridge, which was originally built in 1927, so future generations would have an appreciation of everyday life during the 1990s. "People live in their own time," Mr. Rassa said. "They don't think of the future much. Maybe this will give people who live after us something to talk about."

When the bridge was completed in September 1991, Mr. Rassa put together a time capsule that contained newly minted money, the front sports and news pages of The Sun, a daily stock market report, 100 pictures showing construction activity at the site and a picture of himself.

The time capsule was encased in concrete in a corner of the bridge.

Three years ago, Mr. Rassa, a gruff man with a sly, contented smile, bought a video camera and began videotaping scenes around Joppa. When construction started on the bridge, he pursued his task with a passion.

For nine months he spent at least 15 minutes a day photographing and videotaping the construction. His efforts produced 200 photographs and 10, two-hour tapes.

Initially, he recalled thinking that he was a nuisance, always shooting as workers for Empire Construction Co. of Baltimore went about their tasks. That fear, however, was quickly --ed as the construction workers gave him a hard hat and consented to answer his relentless questions.

Soon they were mugging for the camera and taking gentle ribbing from Mr. Rassa. "Sometimes I told them I wasn't going to shoot them if they didn't start working harder."

Warren Sasenbery, a project manager for Empire, was used to having senior citizens and curiosity seekers watch while a project was under construction. But, he said, he was a bit surprised that Mr. Rassa made the rounds so regularly.

"He's an interesting chap," Mr. Sasenbery declared, "I watched him quite a lot while he was videotaping, but not all 20 hours."

Few escaped Mr. Rassa's cameras. He took pictures and talked to bystanders, mobile food vendors and local merchants. He filmed the bridge project from almost beginning to end. His obsession with visually documenting county history didn't please Roslyn Rassa, his wife of 41 years.

"He's a history nut," Mrs. Rassa said. "He likes anything that's old. He looks for the dates on old buildings. I can't stand it. I don't go in for all that old stuff."

Mr. Rassa admits to an interest in photography since age 15.

He had his own darkroom when he was stationed in the Marshall Islands in the Philippines during World War II. His black and white pictures of bombing raids and images of of life in the barracks fill several scrapbooks.

He isn't sure what his next project will be. Because of his age, the location would have to be convenient. There is one more qualification.

"It has to be interesting to me," he declared. "I have to be there every day."

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