Monday, March 05, 2018

The Ups and Downs of Memory

My reading jogged my memory last night. A boy pushed a button in an elevator, and while he was taken up or down, I was whisked across time, back about 60 years. I remembered my own elevator experience way back then. I may have thought about it once or twice over the years, but if I had, it had not been for a long time, but that one little act jogged my memory.

My parents and I had taken a little trip from Montreal to Cornwall, Kingston and Brockville in Eastern Ontario. We visited Old Fort Henry in Kingston, toured the Thousand Islands from Brockville, and visited extended family in Cornwall as well as toured some of the new St Lawrence Seaway.

But the boy in the book, pushed the button in the elevator.

And that hurtled my mind back across the years to the Cornwallis Hotel in Cornwall. At least I think Cornwall was the place and Cornwallis was the name. I don't think it was the Revere Hotel in Brockville, but I suppose it could have been. Whichever it was, the elevator totally fascinated me.

You see, I could push the buttons and ride it myself at will. And I loved it.

Up until that point, my experience with elevators was limited to multi-storied department stores in downtown Montreal, and in those buildings, young ladies piloted the elevators.

But in this hotel, I was the pilot. What a turn-on!

I found every excuse I could to leave our room in order to pilot that elevator.

We moved away from Montreal a few years later, and at some point I am sure that those department store elevators must have been switched over to self-operating models.

Also, department stores as I used to know them eventually disappeared, and if floors did have to be changed in say a two-floor store like Sears, escalators rather than elevators became the norm.

My last experience with department store elevators was in the summer of 1965 or 66 in downtown Toronto. My girlfriend at the time had a summer job at the upscale Eatons Department Store on College Street, and I visited her there once. Guess what? Her job was elevator operator. I had pretty much forgotten that too ... because my elevator may not go all of the way to the top any more.


Marty Damon said...

Although I can't imagine spending my entire day driving people up and down in an elevator, some of those older models did look at first glance like they required a little skill. First there was that accordion of folding diagonals to pull across, and then the heavy bar to pull that closed the outer doors.

Joanne Noragon said...

Even more to operating those old ones, Marty. The operator had to be certain the cage floor stopped evenly with the outside floor.
At our doctor's office I waited for the elevator with my youngest, and another mother and toddler. Mine was about three. The elevator stopped, the doors opened and there was no elevator. My child darted forward and I barely stopped her. She was looking at the cables and saying "Where's the magic stuff? Where's the magic stuff?" And yes, it was every mother's worst nightmare.
That daughter would have loved piloting an elevator, too.

Mage said...

Our older elevators here had gates too. They also had little fold down seats for the pilot. :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Oh, I remember those "piloted" elevators. This post takes me back to the movie, The Apartment, where Shirley McClain was an elevator operator in some department store or business building. I really miss the old department stores, thinking back. They had recored departments, book departments, along with everything else you can find in today's stores. They were really classy in so many ways.

Hena Tayeb said...

It's interesting the way our memory works..sometimes we remember the oddest things.
My parents live.. I used to live in an apartment building with 13 floors.. we lived on the 11th. And while it seemed like no big deal to us whenever we had kids come over they always wanted to ride the elevator up and down.

Marie Smith said...

Lol. Very up-lifting post, AC! Down-lifting too!

PipeTobacco said...

Very nice memories! I had not thought of elevator drivers in a long time.


Mara said...

I have only ever known the fully automated ones. But I loved (in fact, still do) to push all the buttons when getting out. Especially if there were a lot of floors!

Jenn Jilks said...

I cannot remember the last time I was in an elevator with an operator!
I grew up in down town Toronto, but didn't go on elevators much.

Christina said...

I have never seen a lift with an operator! Your lift story triggered a memory here, too. I remember a paternoster lift in the town near where I grew up. I liked jumping in and out, it would just go up and down and round without ever stopping. We used to take a bus into town when I was maybe 12 and ride the paternoster. The brave could stay in and go all the way round. We had to take care not being caught by the shop assistants.

Kay said...

I've seen those piloted elevators in Japan.