Jack Lubzinski peers through the superstructure of the scale model of the Pattullo Bridge he built when he was 15 years old. Now 90

Pattullo gets new life at New West museum

The Pattullo Bridge helped put Jack Lubzinski through school, kept him out of the war and launched a lifelong interest in math and physics.

There’s not a lot of love for the Pattullo Bridge these days.

But the venerable old crossing over the Fraser River that links New Westminster to Surrey helped put Jack Lubzinski through school, kept him out of the war and launched a lifelong interest in math and physics.

The Pattullo still had that new-bridge sheen when Lubzinski was first captivated by it. The Richmond schoolboy had just completed a scale model reproduction of a huge transmission antenna that had won him a pair of new shoes in a contest when one of his teachers challenged him that the antenna would be as monumental a project as he’d ever be able to achieve.

Lubzinski took the words to heart and spent the next 18 months designing and constructing a scale model of the Pattullo that would stretch more than seven metres long by the time he was done.

Now 90 years old, Lubzinski was a doting observer and sometime supervisor Wednesday as the giant model’s six sections were carefully moved from the basement of the New Westminster Museum and Archives where it had been gathering dust for decades. The grey wooden model will be restored and reassembled by conservator Shabnam Honarbakhsh with the help of funding from the Rotary Club of New Westminster for eventual display in a permanent exhibit at the new Anvil Centre.

Lubzinski smiles at the irony that his model may outlive the actual bridge, which is slated for replacement or rehabilitation by TransLink.

“If there’s a need for a new bridge, then I guess they’ll replace it,” said Lubzinski, matter of factly.

It’s that kind of pragmatic attitude that propelled him to build his model in the first place. The derisive words of his teacher ringing in his ears, it took him a week to whittle and assemble the pieces of B.C. cedar for the first girder. With hundreds more needed, Lubzinski devised a system that got production down to a couple of hours.

Working after school and on weekends in the kitchen and living room of his family’s home, Lubzinski gave painstaking attention to the bridge’s details, right down to the sequence of vertical bars in the outer guardrails.

When the model was finished, he took it apart in sections and transported it to his school, where it became a showpiece attraction in front of the office and a constant reminder to the teacher who dared question his abilities.

In 1940 Lubzinski presented it to the bridge’s namesake, premier Thomas (Duff) Pattullo.

The premier got him scholarship money to continue his studies and when the military called him to service, a judge intervened, ruling Lubzinski’s “place is in technology rather than in the army.”

Lubzinski earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1947 and a master’s in 1950. His thirst for knowledge not sated, he went on to take more than 360 university courses over the next 40 years, including every physics course at BCIT.

To pay the bills Lubzinski and his brother Joseph started Marine Products Company, manufacturing mahogany steering wheels for boats for more than 50 years before it closed in 2005.

He also founded the Lubzinski Center for Innovation in Point Roberts to further the study of quantum physics.

“That bridge changed my life,” said Lubzinski.

Jack Lubzinski and conservator Shabnam Honarbakhsh will be at the museum June 26-28, 2-3 p.m., to meet the public and talk about its construction and restoration. The New Westminster Museum and Archives is located at 302 Royal Ave.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

McCallum declares Feb. 1, 2020 RCMP ‘Appreciation Day’ in Surrey

This year is the centennial anniversary of the national police force

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Plans for apartments on Strawberry Hill shopping site move forward

It would be near the library, and include 123 rental units

Locke calls for brake on Surrey policing plan, says First Nations not consulted

Surrey City Councillor Brenda Locke wants immediate suspension of city’s policing transition process

Province announces two new sites for future Surrey schools

South Newton site cost $18M, while Redwood Heights location cost $25.5M

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Party bus door fault for years ahead of Langley woman’s death: Coroner

Tuesday report classifed Chelsea James’ death accidental, but was critical of bus inspection process

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Owner of dog killed tried to get $5,000 in damages from man who tried to save it

INFOGRAPHIC: See how fast your B.C. city grew in 2019

The province’s fastest-growing municipalities were located on Vancouver Island

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

Alessia Cara to host and perform at 2020 Juno Awards

Multi-platinum Canadian singer-songwriter also up for six awards, including Artist of the Year

Most Read