RSA Union – The Elevator Ride

Elevator Clip ArtAs the prospect of $100 Million in office building construction pervaded the elevator industry, all the major manufacturers began to scramble to be sure their product would be considered. Certainly the RSA Union and Tower together would be the most significant elevator work in Alabama for 1993.  I had been in wars with all the elevator makers at one time or another, but in 1992 the one with the blackest mark in my book was the Montgomery Elevator Company of Moline, Illinois.  I never liked their product and had never allowed the company to bid our work.  Dr. Bronner did not like the Montgomery Elevator he rode on every day when the RSA was a tenant in the Shepard Building in the 1970’s, so he supported my position.

On the other hand, Ron Blount, who had been appointed construction advisor for the RSA, considered Montgomery Elevator to be his favorite.  Ergo, Ron connived with Montgomery to arrange a field trip for himself and me to go to Atlanta and experience firsthand the wonders of the latest Montgomery elevator system, as had been recently installed in a 20-story apartment tower in North Atlanta.

The trip was set for July 23, 1992, and on the appointed day Montgomery’s limo  appeared at PH&J’s front door and transported Ron and me to Dannelly Field where their corporate jet sat idling.  Already aboard was Kevin Fitzgerald, Montgomery’s Birmingham Branch Manager; Raymond Warren, their Alabama Service Manager; and Stephen Cox, a Montgomery vice president, who headed up the companies’ entire  Southern Region.  And while I do not recall their names, Montgomery’s party also included their National Sales Manager and their Atlanta Branch Manager.  I was duly impressed with this show of force and interest.  Ron Blount stayed in the corner beaming at the turn-out he had arranged.

The private jet quickly took us to Atlanta where we were met by two limos and even more Montgomery Elevator officials.  Our party proceeded to the apartment building and found an elevator car awaiting the group.  All nine of us scampered aboard and I was treated to an express ride to the top and a tour of their machine room, all spit-polished for the occasion.  A short time later, back in the car, I played with the controls and observed the operation as we descended a few floors.  “I’m satisfied,” I answered, and the Montgomery contingent beamed with pleasure.  “To the lobby and back to Montgomery (Alabama),” I continued.

The National Sales Manager was standing by the control panel and he hit the Lobby button.  The car descended swiftly and arrived at the First Floor in seconds.  As the car came to a stop, all nine of us looked at the car door expectantly.  Nothing happened.  The Sales Vice President hit the “open door” button.  Again nothing.  A feeling of panic overcame the group.  The local branch manager was summoned to the front of the car and the two national vice presidents stepped back.  The local guy pressed many buttons.  He tried to force the doors open with his fingers, but no luck there.  Finally, he hollered and pounded on the door.

I heard footsteps in the lobby and within ten-seconds the door sprang open at the urging of an elevator technician who carried the proper emergency tool.  I quickly stepped out of the car and observed a dozen elevator maintenance guys who had suddenly appeared from behind every column and pot plant that graced the room.  I don’t know who was the most  red faced–the technicians who were supposed to have the demonstration car perfectly tuned, or the Montgomery Elevator Company sales officials.  To this day I still chuckle over that ride.

Despite the demonstration calamity, we did allow Montgomery[1] to bid, but thankfully they were not low.

[1] In 1994, Montgomery Elevator Company was bought out by the giant Finnish elevator company, KONE, which now provides most of the cruise ship elevators.

-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)

This is one of many RSA Union stories. The rest can be found here.

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