Johnston Hall, on the campus of Marquette University has stood in place for more than 100 years. The elevator that has serviced its floors seems to have been placed about the same time. I was completely sure that it was run by tiny monkeys running on a treadmill in the basement. Imagine my amazement then, when they started to remove the elevator today, and I discovered there actually was a rather large motor running the operations.
As I watched the engineers at work dismantling the device I couldn’t help but think about the day it was first placed into service. How the engineers working that day could easily have been the grandparents of the two working today. The bricks that make up the shaft have history as well, the traditional cream city brick has been stained black with years of use and grease applied to the chain that would raise the box up and down delivering individuals to their floor of destination.
The assembly was quite simple – a motor, box and chain unit to raise and lower the elevator. I am sure the engineers removing the old elevator would not agree with my simplistic view, but it did not contain all the electronic components and could easily be worked on without the need of a computer analytic system. Ah the pure simplicity is enough to make this techies head spin! The thing that was the best about this elevator though was not its mechanics, it was the personality and stories it provided during its years of service.
This elevator had decided from day one that it was going to take great pleasure trapping faculty within the confines of its walls. The person it seemed to enjoy annoying the most was a member of the Journalism program. Perhaps Dr. Thorn had written an article in the past banning the use of such devices to take members to the floor without the need to walk. Maybe Dr. Thorn had angered the ghost that has been rumored to haunt the 5th floor and he was behind all the extra time spent in the small elevator area.
Stories have been told of the elevator breaking on its maiden voyage when too many people packed inside after the ribbon cutting ceremony – I wonder if Dr. Thorn had been one of the lucky travelers and the elevator just liked his company. Another story reminds me of the sense of humor this elevator seemed to posses. Dr. Thorn had entered one day and the elevator continued to travel him from basement to the 5th floor for the next half hour. Up and down the shaft shouting to public safety to help him out. When the elevator stopped short of the 4th floor, Dr. Thorn had to climb out the top of the shaft, lifting himself out of his temporary office.
But today the end is near. No more will the elevator enjoy Dr. Thorn’s company. An end of an era is truly upon us. The new elevator just north of its predecessor has been heard talking to its passengers. Jon Pray, Vice Provost for Educational Technology seems to have formed a personal relationship with the new elevator, holding a lengthy conversation with it on one occasion when the phone operator inadvertently transferred a call to the phone held within. Perhaps he will take over where Dr. Thorn left off – only time will tell. In any case, Dr. Thorn will be happy to pass the torch!