Precarious walk by VIPs among photo memories of construction of Captain Cook Bridge

Work safety did not appear to be a concern during the building of Captain Cook Bridge in the 1960s.

A guide wire was the only safety precaution to be seen when Deputy Premier Pat Hills led a group of VIPs in a precarious walk along a girder on the edge of the bridge.

There were no high-vis safety vests, hard hats or work boots for politicians of that era.

The image was captured by Fairfax Media photographer George Lipman in June, 1964 - 11 months before the bridge opened.

It is among a gallery of photos - some of which have rarely been seen before - in the Leader's photo archives.

Another photo shows Bill Harper, who was described in the caption as "a 47-year-old Kogarah rabbit-oh", preparing his 19-year-old horse Dolly and cart in the dark of early morning to be among the first to cross the bridge.

More than 5000 excited residents attended the opening on May 29, 1965.

The new crossing replaced the car ferry (punt), which had operated between Taren Point and Rocky Point, Sans Souci, since 1916.

By the time the service finished, the punt was carrying 1000 cars across the river each day.

Governor Sir Eric Woodward was in the first car to cross the bridge, which cost £1 1/2 million ($3 million) to build.

A youthful stilt walker and cyclists were among the crowd who followed.

''Even before Sir Eric and Lady Woodward and the official party had driven across the bridge, hundreds of people tried to be the first pedestrians across,'' the Leader reported.

"At one stage half the bridge and its approaches almost had disappeared under the mass of people crowding across it."

The last ferry to cross the river was "gaily decorated, with flags and streamers" and "packed with hundreds of people, plus a full complement of cars.''

The bridge was to have been the first component of a Southern Expressway linking Sydney's expanding suburbs to the industrial Illawarra region.

However, the only other section that has since been completed is between Sydney and Wollongong.

LEADER FLASHBACK

Every Friday we delve into the Leader archives to embark on some time travel.

We will bring you photographs of a news event from 59 years of Leader news coverage that you may or may not recall.

Flashback Friday submissions are also welcomed.

Feel free to share your recollections with us on our Facebook page @SutherlandShireStGeorgeNews or email leaderletters@fairfaxmedia.com.au