A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 17, 2019
“Like painting the George Washington Bridge” (never-ending)

"Like painting the George Washington Bridge” is an idiomatic expression meaning something that is never-ending. When you finally finish painting and get to the other side, it’s time to start over again. The expression has been applied to the Forth Bridge (Scotland), Golden Gate Bridge (California), Sydney Harbour Bridge (Australia), and others.

“Washing these windows, like painting the Brooklyn Bridge, is a lifetime job” was printed in the Detroit (MI) Sunday Times on March 31, 1929. “Painting at the hospital is like painting the George Washington Bridge, never done” was printed in The Rockland County Journal-News (Nyack, NY) on August 6, 1951. “‘It’s like painting the Golden Gate bridge,’ sister Mary Daniel laughed. ‘We start at one end when we finish the other’” was printed in the San Francisco (CA) Chronicle on October 11, 1954.

American radio and television comedian Jack Paar (1918-2004), who hosted The Tonight Show from 1957 to 1962, said in 1967:

“It (The Tonight Show—ed.) got to be a bore beyond belief. Doing the show was like painting the George Washington Bridge—as soon as you finished one end, you started right in again on the other.”


(Oxford English Dictionary)
transitive. to paint the Forth Bridge and variants [in allusion to the huge task of maintaining the painted surfaces of the railway bridge over the Firth of Forth, central Scotland] : used in similative phrases as the type of a never-ending or arduous task.
[1901 Portsmouth (New Hampsh.) Herald 16 July 3/1 The Forth Bridge is constantly being repainted.]
1955 Times 2 Mar. 7/1 One of its main tasks is to keep the authoritative dictionary of the French language up to date, and this task, like painting the Forth bridge, is never finished.
1981 N.Y. Times (Nexis) 4 Oct. ii. 1/6 Mr. Edgar compared his task to painting the Forth Bridge: every time a version was finished it needed re-doing from the start.

Wikipedia: Forth Bridge
Maintenance
“Painting the Forth Bridge” is a colloquial expression for a never-ending task, coined on the erroneous belief that at one time in the history of the bridge repainting was required and commenced immediately upon completion of the previous repaint. Such a practice never existed, as weathered areas were given more attention, but there was a permanent maintenance crew. In 2011, the bridge was covered in a new coating designed to last for 25 years, bringing an end to having painters as a regular part of the maintenance crew.

Wikipedia: George Washington Bridge
The George Washington Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River, connecting the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City with the borough of Fort Lee in New Jersey. The bridge is named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. The George Washington Bridge is the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge, carrying over 103 million vehicles per year in 2016. It is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a bi-state government agency that operates infrastructure in the Port of New York and New Jersey. The George Washington Bridge is also informally known as the GW Bridge, the GWB, the GW, or the George, and was known as the Fort Lee Bridge or Hudson River Bridge during construction.

23 August 1894, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, pg. 6, col. 2:
Painting the Forth Bridge.
The Forth bridge receives a new coat of paint every three years, and one-third is done each year, so that the painters are continually at work.

31 March 1929, Detroit (MI) Sunday Times, “1,957 Windows in Structure,” pt. 8, pg. 2, col. 5:
Washing these windows, like painting the Brooklyn Bridge, is a lifetime job.

5 December 1937, The Observer (London, UK), “London’s ‘Bus Fleet,” pg. 3, col. 5:
“‘Bus fleet replacement is a never-ending job, comparable only with the task of painting the Forth Bridge,” commented an official of the Board with whom I discussed ‘buses of the last 100 years.

20 April 1940, The Evening Telegraph (Dundee, Scotland), “In London To-day,” pg. 4, col. 3:
Painting the White Line.
The task of painting the white line in the middle of the roads in London is like painting the Forth Bridge. As soon as you have finished you have to start all over again.

6 August 1951, The Rockland County Journal-News (Nyack, NY), “Maintenance Job at Nyack Hospital Is Full-Time Job for Big Staff,” pg. 2, col. 3:
Painting at the hospital is like painting the George Washington Bridge, never done.

11 October 1954, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, “Mount Joseph’s Is Real Home” by June Hogan, pg. 18, co. 2:
“It’s like painting the Golden Gate bridge,” sister Mary Daniel laughed. “We start at one end when we finish the other.”

13 February 1955, Sunday Call-Chronicle (Allentown, PA), “Selecting School Textbooks is an Intricate and Never Ending Job” by Bill Roth, pg. 18, col. 4:
Selecting textbooks for Allentown school, like painting the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson, is a never ending job.

11 January 1960, Newsweek (New York, NY), pg. 76, col. 2:
His (Bill Renchard—ed.) job has included directing the remodeling or relocation of most of them; a task, he says is “like painting the George Washington Bridge. By the time you get to the end, you have to start at the front again.”

24 November 1967, Seattle (WA) Times, “A Royal Choice” by C. J. Skreen, pg. 23, col. 6:
On leaving his old Tonight Show: “It got to be a bore beyond belief. Doing the show was like painting the George Washington Bridge—as soon as you finished one end, you started right in again on the other.”

18 December 1967, Akron (OH) Beacon Journal, Hy Gardner column, pg. B22, col. 3:
Recalling his fascinating, controversial and habit-forming years on the “Tonight” show, Jack (Paar—ed.) says: “It got to be a bore beyond belief; doping the show was like painting the George Washington Bridge—as soon as you finished one end, you started right in again on the other.”

Twitter
Aurora
@CitizenScreen
Photoset: “Doing the show was like painting the George Washington Bridge. As soon as you finished one end,... http://tmblr.co/ZbPOAxKiQ2PF
6:37 PM - 1 May 2012

Twitter
The Examined Life
@philosiblog
You gotta do it. Mope or hope? “Doing the show was like painting the George Washington Bridge. - Jack Parr” http://j.mp/K1vaSw
8:51 PM - 1 May 2012

Google Books
The Curious Musings of Sally Columbous
By Tracey Hollings
Xlibris LLC (Xlibris.com)
2013
Pg. 29:
We have a saying in our family when a tedious chore arises, “bit like painting the Harbour Bridge”.

Google Books
A Walk by the Sea:
A Journey into the New Millennium

By John Brant Chatterton
Matador
2016
Pg. 308:
Containing 54,000 tonnes of steel, maintaining this structure brought a new phrase into the English language: “It’s like painting the Forth Bridge”. That is, a never ending task; as soon as it’s finished it’s time to start again. Paint technology in more recent years has put pay to this urban myth.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • Friday, May 17, 2019 • Permalink