The Bridge Tender’s Daughter
The Wood family not only made their living on the original wooden Vero Beach Bridge — it’s where they lived
Ben Wood stands on the Wabasso bridge, circa 1958. He lost his right arm in an accident before he moved to Vero Beach but didn’t let that prevent him from providing a good living for his family as bridge tender.
Seventy years ago, Vero Beach families lived in simpler times. School choice was limited to the only choice. Farming and fishing provided food for a family, as well as economic growth for the community. Traffic was light and flowed smoothly on two-lane roads. A person’s name with only an abbreviated address, such as “Route 1, Vero Beach,” was enough for a mailman to make a delivery because he knew everyone in town.
This was the life Janice Wood Sizelove remembers, and the Vero Beach native experienced all of the above. Yet she and her parents and six siblings also shared a simpler life that was unique to them. Her father, Ben Wood, was the long-time bridge tender on the town’s original wooden bridge across the Indian River. The family lived in the house right on the bridge so Wood could facilitate northbound and southbound commerce on the Intracoastal Waterway day or night.
Wood was no ordinary bridge tender, however, because he had only one arm to operate the hand-cranked draw span that opened and closed the bridge. As a young man he lost his right arm at the elbow as the result of an industrial accident, but he never let the disability prevent him from providing a good living for his family.