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A Blast from the Past

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In February, we published a comment from Mike Byrnes, in which he told us of his avocation of playing the guitar. After calling him to discuss further, I received the following e-mail, in which he nostalgically refers to the years he and I played music with different bands in the same places. He also sent me a video of his early years in the elevator industry, which we have uploaded to our YouTube website (www.youtube.com/elevator worldinc). I hope this will encourage other EW readers to tell us about their avocations. 

E-mail from Byrnes:

“Our conversation gave me a trip down memory lane. It is amazing that two elevator people who have never met can have such a similar history and stories of being in the same places. After we talked, I started to think about the Village Barn, and, if my memory serves me right, the gig was Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. I am sure I do not have to tell you that playing in a rock band can broaden your horizons and give a normally shy individual an inner confidence that can otherwise take years to acquire.

“I was also an Otis adjustor on the 55 Water Street building when it was built. It was a 50-story building that covered an entire block. At the time, it was considered the second-largest office building in the U.S. It has been 40 years since I was there, but I remember each bank only served about six floors, and the elevator machine rooms had three levels each. The top level had the controllers, the hoist machines were below that, and there was a secondary level crawl space. From what I hear, the devastation to the building caused by Hurricane Sandy is incomprehensible. The lobby had 4 ft. of water, which filled the elevator pits and basements. And, the water pressure blew out all the pit walls. If I get pictures of this, I will send them to you.

“I also sent you a short video of Joe Concannon, an Otis adjuster, and I, filmed in 1969. We filmed the high-rise elevator machine room in One New York Plaza. We also went to the roof and panned Lower Manhattan. One New York Plaza is opposite the Staten Island Ferry, which can be seen in the video. You also get a glimpse of the World Trade Center (WTC) Twin Towers that were going up at the time. This was my first job after leaving the music business, so I still had my long hair. I am still working in the elevator business, but the hair is gone.”

Life is full of coincidences, and people of like minds, more often than not, are drawn to each other. I do not really know what makes this happen, but Byrnes and I have connected on many levels. The following further explains.

My first job was as a draftsman in the elevator department of Jaros Baum & Bolles (JB&B) Consulting Engineers. Cal Kort ran the department and designed the elevator systems for 55 Water Street, and John Martin and I made the elevator drawings. We were told that 55 Water Street was the largest office building in the world when completed. It is also the largest to have been flooded by 4 ft. of water.

It is a shame what happened and what the elevator mechanics are going through to get things back in shape in Lower Manhattann, New York. Many wire-rope manufacturers are saying elevator ropes exposed to that much moisture will have to be replaced, even if they did not actually get wet. In this month’s issue of ELEVATOR WORLD, there is an article on this subject, as well as an advertisement, that emphasizes this. I guess the bright side is that the necessary rope replacements will create a lot of work for elevator companies in New York City.

Concannon’s son, Mike, who was also a musician, and I worked on the Irving Trust Building, as well. There are a lot of coincidences and great memories in this story. Thanks to Byrnes for bringing these fond memories back to me and sending the video, which I really enjoyed. I especially like the pan over to the WTC, for which John and I also did the elevator drawings and of which I still have copies. If anyone has a photo of the Village Barn in Mahopac, New York, where Byrnes and I played music in our younger days, I would love to see it. Also, feel free to tell us about your avocations. Until next time, keep the beat!

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