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.