Freefalling from the Spiral BridgeFireworks are OK, but in the early 1930s, Hastings residents were treated to a show on the Fourth of July that would make even the most extensive fireworks display seem a bit boring.
By: Keith Grauman, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Fireworks are OK, but in the early 1930s, Hastings residents were treated to a show on the Fourth of July that would make even the most extensive fireworks display seem a bit boring.
For several years around 1933, a Hastings man named Don Foster would extend a plank off the side of the Spiral Bridge and dive head-first into the Mississippi River.
According to a newspaper report, Foster got his start jumping off bridges in 1933 on a $10 bet, which in today’s dollars equals about $165.
Foster’s story is best summed up in a newspaper article that ran in the Hastings Gazette on March 31, 1933. The headline was: Local Boy becomes high diver because ‘It’s fun.’
The rest of the story is as follows:
Probably the poorest insurance risk in Hastings is Don Foster, who dives off bridges and thinks it is fun.
“You feel like a bird when you’re falling,” he says.
It all started as a result of a $10 bet. A friend in a light moment wagered Don he would not dive from the Hastings bridge tower into the Mississippi. Don regarded the proposition as play–for pay.
Arrangements were made for Foster to make his dive the following Sunday. Don thought as long as he was going to risk his neck he might as well make himself some “easy money,” so he distributed circulars inviting one and all to come watch him.
A crowd of 1,500 watched wide-eyed as Foster sailed through the air, sank into the water, and emerged unhurt. Don collected his bet and took up a collection from the spectators.
Two weeks later, he propositioned Red Wing for a dive off their bridge. That city agreed to sponsor the jump, and undertakers mentally measured Don for a casket. This jump proved successful from an artistic and financial standpoint.
At present, Don is negotiating for a dive at Prescott and has many prospective “jobs” in other towns for this summer. He sets no limit to the height of the bridge, stipulating only that the water must be 10 feet deep for a 100-foot dive.
Don suffers no ill effect from the violent contact with the water. His shoulder straps bruise his shoulders a little, he says, but he is usually in the boat 15 seconds after leaving the bridge and ready to leap again.
The diving started with “dares” at Prescott. He gradually worked up from leaps off different parts of the bridge until he had dived from the topmost point. This was all for “fun.”
His only accident was when his arm hit a deadhead log at Prescott, tearing the ligaments and making that limb useless for some time. If the log had been six inches to one side, Don would have dived no more.
Another close call, Don says, occurred when someone grabbed his leg when he was just about to leap at Red Wing, last summer. If he had gone off then, he probably would have been dragged out with a fish net, he thinks. Outside of these two close calls, Foster has experienced no “difficulties.”
He wears an ordinary bathing suit, unpadded, and uses no protection for his head.
When straight diving becomes “monotonous” and ceases to draw crowds, Don plans to take up flaming dives. He already has samples of an asbestos suit.
He claims to have control of himself during the time he is in the air, but as yet has attempted no turns or somersaults. He says he might try them some day, too.
Don plans to take up high diving as a “profession.” He believes it is one of the few fields that is not overcrowded, and he says you can’t beat the working hours.