Thursday, February 16, 2006

Remember When There Were HUMAN Elevator Operators?

I've had occassion in the last 7 months to spend way too much time staying with family members in the hospital. As a consequence, I've been forced to wait what seemed like a lifetime for the slowest elevators any modern building could possibly have! LOL

Recently, as someone was politely punching buttons for everyone who had gotten on, I was suddenly reminded of the old elevator operators that I remember as a child. As I teased the lady who was doing the honors, several younger people in the elevator became interested, so some of us older folks started telling them, as we rode up the elevator, all about the human operators. It was obviously something they had never heard of. One young man wanted to know if they got paid!

So, I did a little research and found this great article from The Museum of American Heritage, on the history of elevators and the Elevator Operators of the 50's and earlier.

I remember the jerky stops when the operator had to move the car up and down to get it lined up with the floor. I remember the fancy uniforms the operators wore in the "nice" buildings, and I remember some of the shabbily dressed operators, sitting on stools with split cushions in dark little cubicles, in some of the "poorer" buildings. I remember how they announced on each floor of the department stores what you could find on that floor.

My most vivid memory is of the Woodward Building in downtown Birmingham, where the elevator shafts were covered in glass. That meant, as a child, I could see the cables, looking like long snakes, moving up and down, see and hear the cars go up and down, and watch the top of the car as it came up the long shaft toward us. Very scary for a little girl, plus I only went there when I was going to the dentist. That may be where my fear of heights started ROFL!

Do YOU remember when elevators were "driven"?

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marina said...

No, never. The only one's I've seen, are the ones that come out of old films and movies. I do agree with you, a human operated elevator would be scary ... what if they accidentally let go ... oh perish the thought

Dirty Butter said...

what if they accidentally let go ... oh perish the thought

The elevators had engines in the basement driving the cables, plus they had safety brakes on them. The operator had to stop it at the opening, work the doors, and start up smoothly.

Some operators were women. It was not a job requiring strength, but skill.

Patti Albaugh said...

This is a great website for collecting all those rich memories that would otherwise be lost!

Operating an elevator in my family's department store was my second job (my first was working in giftwrap). I have a blog about a fictional elevator operator in the fifties and another about small town department stores. Would love to exchange information about those experiences.