“We just thought it was unique to the building and added character,” said Way, who also serves as manager of administrative services at the bank. “Unfortunately, technology has caught up to us.”
The two passenger elevators in the lobby are now marked out of service. The plan is to replace the elevators in the coming months, Way said. The new ones will be automatic, he said – no operator required.
In the meantime, Way said, people will have to use the freight elevator, also located in the lobby, to access the building’s upper levels. (Unlike the two passenger elevators, the freight elevator does not require an operator).
The stairs are also an option, Way said, should anyone feel up to it.
Way said the bank did not set out to replace all of three of the elevators – just the freight elevator. However, he said, because of fire regulations, it could not replace one and not the others.
That said, in doing so, the bank is simply catching up with the times. Most passenger elevators are useroperated these days. And the ones that are not are typically located in much larger buildings, the kind that attract tourists, like Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower, in Chicago.
The fact is, elevator operator, as a job, has been an anachronism for some time. Zalas, for his part, had never seen one until he started working at the First Bank Building. “Actually, I think that was the first time I had ever ridden in an elevator with an operator,” the attorney said.
“It was wonderful while it lasted. It was a very nice job,” said Helen Basker, who worked as an elevator operator at the First Bank Building for about five years in her 80s before health problems forced her to quit. “I loved it,” she said, “meeting all the people in the building and everything like that. They were very friendly.”
Asked about the decision to replace the building’s old elevators, the South Bend woman, who is now in her 90s, said she felt “very bad for all the girls working there, because it’s such a nice job, a clean job and everything.”<< previous 1 2
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