Fifty years ago in The Master

Reflect on life in our building in the 60s-

• No outside telephones. Hopefuls solicited the switchboard girls and desk clerks for gossip about romantic liaisons in the building and any new cute man; usually they were disappointed when the response was ‘Mind your own business!’. You could connect to other apartments or make very expensive external calls on your internal phone, or you could use the public phone booth in the lobby to save money.

• No air conditioning. Domestic air conditioning units were not in general use and required special electrical connection. The building was not wired to handle window units until it went co-op. Tenants bought window fans and awnings helped a bit.

• No mail room and no private mail boxes. Your mail was distributed to pigeon holes behind the desk, hotel-style, and desk staff handed your mail to you.

• No garbage closets. Trash went into big trash cans on the landing at the freight lift (eventually fire regulations required this to change).

• Elevator operators worked a motor controller, shaped like a round hat box, with a hand brake to get to your floor. Elevators had a governor that prevented a catastrophic fall if the cable broke or power failed. This safety mechanism was essential to the development of New York skyscrapers. You did not stop automatically at floor level–depending on the skill of the operator, he may have jogged your cab to the level of the floor, opened the telescoping door for you, and then reminded you to ‘Watch your step”.

• Elevator staff got to know your comings and goings. So did the uniformed doormen. Hopefuls saw them, too, as prospective sources of gossip!

• By the 70s, the two longest elevators (the ones that rise to the 25th floor) had been refitted with automatic floor buttons; the freight elevator and the shorter one to the 18th floor were modernized later, when the building went co-op.

• All residents could use the solarium on the 26th floor.

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