For reasons that I won’t go into right now I found myself this afternoon in the back freight elevator in the old Physics Building. It actually wasn’t in bad shape and it had clearly had some recent work done on it, but it’s still the kind of thing that makes you think of the word “rattletrap.”
Anyway, it reminded me of a set of elevator repair images that I’ve hung on to for no good reason. This first one is undated, but looks like the ’80s to me. I don’t know either of these guys but they look like they mean business. You wouldn’t hesitate to get into an elevator that they’d repaired.
Now I’m quite aware that I have complained more than once about how people take the same pictures over and over again, but some pictures just must be taken. I myself am not capable of walking past an elevator under repair without snapping a photo. This was in Duncan Hall in late September and these two were a couple of jokers, possessed of a polished repertoire of elevator humor. They kept me laughing for a good ten minutes. I’m sure they also fixed the elevator eventually.
I’m sure the elevator business has its ups and downs. The two gentlemen in the first picture are Henry Wilkinson and Merl Bradley, both of FE&P. They both retired in the 1990s, I believe; I think Merl was the mayor of Manvel for a bit when Manvel was a really small country town. The newer picture shows a couple of contractors from Humble Elevator Service, Inc., who did a lot of elevator upgrades on campus this summer. I don’t know those guys but I recognize the polo shirt.
In the early days of Lovett College (’68-’69), a favorite prank was to climb through the access door in the ceiling of the elevator and ride as a ‘hidden passenger’ until someone else got on completely unaware of the interloper. Spooking people, especially guys with their girls, was great fun. Of course, it lost its cache once everyone knew to expect unexplained noises, etc.
Well, that sounds well and truly dangerous!
2 of Mr. Bradley’s sons went to Rice.
It wasn’t dangerous. Two wags at Lovett would do it together, one on top and one on the bottom. The guy on the bottom would explain that the elevator was now wired for voice control and would command the elevator to stop or tell it what floor to go to, and the guy on top using the external control would have the elevator comply. They convinced quite a few people.
There was also the night when a group decided to find out how many people would fit in the elevator. They found out two things. If the elevator is overloaded, it won’t move. Elevator cables stretch. The cable had to be replaced the next day because it had stretched around a foot.
I once heard the story from Dr. James Sims that when the elevator was installed in Lovett Hall for the President, the contractor nearly went broke because he had not calculated the extremely thick concrete between the floors that had to be removed.
I remember a story from Sid Rich, about 1978 (?). There was some kind of elevator malfunction (maybe an electrical fire). After that, that particular unit was dubbed the “Death Vator”.
Actually the Death Vator name came in use when Star Wars came out on 76. Yes a time existed before Star Wars. The fire incident was unrelated, I am sure. If you look in the Sid entries in the Campanile from around 73-75 you should see a picture of Phil Walters fixing the Sid elevator if I remember
Hey– I took that photo! I think it was 1989 or 1990. Probably Allen Center.
Hi Tommy! Do you remember what building it was taken in?
Oops! I see now–Allen Center.
The very first picture is the most interesting to me because of the door knobs on the elevator doors. I’ve never seen door knobs like that before. Very antique I would say. Are they still on the doors or are the doors even still there?
Yes, the doors are still there. You can’t see it in this picture but inside the door are two wire doors, top and bottom rather than side by side, which have to be closed and latched before the elevator will run.
I went to a wedding reception at the River Oaks Country Club about 6 years ago and had to ride an elevator like the one you described. It had to be one of the first ones ever used in Houston, but much smaller than the freight elevator you had in the picture.
The wire doors you describe are a common feature of freight elevators.
I looked at the door knobs and they do not seem to be as fancy as those that were in South Hall in 1953. Maybe a study of doorknobs at Rice would be interesting. The plates in South Hall had facing Peacocks on them which I could never figure out the meaning.
Bill Johnson ’57
The press box elevator still had the internal cage door until the most recent renovation, and the driver had to be an artist to get the cab to line up with the floor upon arrival.
Renovation was what, six years ago, with the rest of the major work in the stadium?