Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Blog

I am discontinuing the blog new blog can be found at:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I’m going to back-up here and talk about my Dad.

My Father, Vance, served in the Navy during World War Two. While growing up in San Bernardino he had earned an electrical degree at a local college. Along with his degree he was an avid “Amateur Radio Operator” (HAM). When World War Two broke out he enlisted in the United States Navy. With his qualifications from civilian life, the Navy sent him to Oklahoma A&M from which he graduated as an Ensign. He was then assigned to Treasure Island California as an instructor in the use and repair of radar and radio equipment. By VJ Day he been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and transferred to the “Great Lakes Naval Station” in Chicago and put in command of the radio and radar training division.
Upon returning to California, his brother, Nelson, was able to steer Dad in the right direction so he could hire on with Otis. Nelson was a longtime Otis employee. Starting as a helper he worked his way through the ranks to become a service manager in Spokane, Seattle and finally Los Angeles. Dad started as a typical "Grunt" in the Construction Department for Otis in LA. With his electrical background he was able to work his way all the way up to adjuster. He started out adjusting the smaller jobs like 10/20U's and hydro freights in way-out places. He traveled all over the western United States and Alaska. As time passed he moved on to the class A installations such as Autotronics and 80U's. He tired of traveling and never being home. He asked Otis for a Service Job. In two months he was back on the road adjusting elevators. . . the job he loved.

In the early 60’s Elevator Maintenance Company (EMCO) recruited him. Working for EMCO brought forth a wealth of experience due to the diversity of equipment they built, bought and installed. Haughton bought EMCO a couple of years later and it wasn't long before he became "Chief Adjuster". Dad adjusted everything from the old damping motor series field control, to regulator generator and onto tach feed back systems with 1092IC Group Supervisory System. You name it, if Haughton shipped it out the back door; he fixed it, adjusted it and turned it over to the customer. His work was cut out for him. Haughton was experiencing severe growing pains. They were moving from the way elevators had always been built to the beginnings of the way elevators are today. "Nothing Worked" Everything had to be fixed in the field from governors, safeties, motor control and supervisory systems. Dad fixed it all. He nursed every new product the company came out with, made it work, made it reliable and made sure the service department could keep it running well.

My father's greatest attribute was teaching. He not only taught union school but he taught his helpers well. Most of his helpers went on to become adjusters, route men, service managers, superintendents and even successful company owners. He always took the time to answer questions and made sure that they were understood.

The end of his career was not pretty. His eyesight was beginning to fail. Being the proud stubborn man he was, he refused to take a service route when offered by the company. The company didn't make a serious effort to utilize his wealth of talent. There is an old saying "What Have You Done For Me Today" Never mind the years of dedicated service, problem solving and loyalty. The man Dad worked for had always represented Dad's ideas as his own for his own benefit. He never said a word when Dad was screwed. This man was not only Dads boss but also a man who Dad considered his friend. I don't want to start this story on a negative note. My Father did retire in 1989, built his dream home in the desert and lived there until he passed in 1998.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Best is Yet to Come

FOB was 8 stories tall but the equivalent to a 12 to 15 story building due to 20 foot floor heights. There was no personnel hoist so our only way up and down was the stairs or our skips.

The skips were platforms constructed of plywood and 2x4s that were built to fit between the elevator guide rails. They were propelled up the hoist way by a large geared 220 volt motor at the bottom landing secured with a 4 x 4 wedged into the ceiling. On the end of the motor was a capstan (CATHEAD). 3X3 rope blocks (3 to 3’s) using 3/4" manila rope were suspended from the overhead of the hoist way and attached to the center of the skip. To travel up, the free line from the upper rope block was wrapped around the cathead and turned on by a guy at the bottom landing using a foot switch. If the cathead was not available we pulled the skips up my hand. Traveling down was a different deal as seen later in my story.

My first ride on this 7'x8' piece of plywood was with four other guys whose average weight had to be 240. Along with all this muscle and beer bellies there was 100 pounds of tools and mysterious elevator stuff. We got on the skip in the basement. I crowded close to the center to avoid certain death by falling off the edge into the empty space that surrounded us on all sides. One of the guys hit the steel rail two times with a large hammer (SINGLE-JACK). The skip started up with a jerk and after traveling up four floors, the single-jack struck one time again and we stopped.

Bud growled “This is us”. We stepped off the skip onto a lobby that had four open hoist ways on each side. Spread all over the unfinished lobby floor were about 75 rectangular iron rusty things called counterweight fillers. Bud informed me my job would be to pick up one of these 150 pounds of iron, carry it across the lobby and place it on a waiting skip parked waist high. After I loaded six of the monsters, I banged on the rail twice and like magic the weights and skip disappeared up the hoist way. After three hours of this I could see my hemorrhoids peeking out of the bottom of my pant leg. I was already beat and it wasn’t even lunch time yet.

Just as the skip mysteriously disappeared 3 hours ago, it suddenly reappeared in the dark hoist way like something right out a Stephen King movie. On board were the same 4 behemoths as before. Bud said "Get on, time for lunch". The trip down was not the same as the trip up. To begin with, there was no room at the center this time and believe me, you didn’t want to grab on to one of the other guys. The first day on the job was not the time for lasting impressions. One of the guys had wrapped a length of rope around the rope falls four times and was holding each end. This was our decent velocity control. The less he pulled the ends, the faster we went. The harder he pulled the slower we went. Pulling even harder caused us to stop. Ok? He said down we went and fast. My first thought was "I'm going to die" but the other guys were grinning and looking at me. . . It must be OK.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Ain't He Purrrt-y."

On my very first day I reported to the Haughton shop dressed in my new J.C. Penny’s work shirt, Levi 501’s, high top Red Wing steel-toed work boots. I was equipped with a Craftsman screwdriver, Channel Locks, notebook and pencil. Frank took one look at me and snickered "Ain't He Purrrt-y."

All along the question in my mind was. . . Where would my first work assignment be? As I held my breath, he told me to go to the Federal Office Building (FOB) in Downtown Los Angeles. Oh No, Not the Federal Building!!! FOB was a big job with sixteen gearless passenger cars, two geared service cars, one hydro and a couple of escalators. The whole she-bang was all under one roof in a big rectangular box at Los Angeles & Temple Streets. Also, FOB just happened to be the "Devil’s Island" of Haughton's current jobs. To make matters worse, the foreman was the Devil himself. “BUD”

Bud (AKA Stumpy)

I drove my ‘58 Ford 500 down the Hollywood Freeway to the Temple Street exit, parked on the street about five blocks from the job, gathered up my stuff, hiked on in and started looking for Bud. I'd never been on a big job before and it was downright SCARY. Here were all these mean-looking hard hats. They were yelling at each other and even taking a crap on toilets right out in the open close enough to whisper in each others’ ear. Then there were the big-ass holes in the floor that went into some dark unknown abyss. Power cords were all over the floor. It was dark and the only lighting was two wires strung everywhere with light bulbs attached via a plastic device called a Redhead. To top it off there was the ear shattering noise that came from everywhere.

I found Bud, introduced myself to the “Alleged Tyrant” who responded with a few primeval undistinguishable grunts. Rather than The elevator superman I expected, here stood a short stocky guy wearing a J.C. Penny’s Towncraft navy blue tee shirt with a Marlboro hard pack in the pocket. This guy had the shortest, thickest fingers I'd ever seen. And to make matters worse, he chewed his nails and they looked like those old "MOON" wheel covers cut in half. Later I found out they were the source of his nick name "STUMPY"