Friday, February 6, 2009


There was a great article in the Grand Forks Herald newspaper recently. It was about an escalator, considered to be the first in North Dakota. The Otis moving stairway was installed in the First National Bank building in the downtown area. It carried you from the first floor to the second floor--and back down again. The incline stairs was installed used, fifty years ago and it is estimated it is seventy years old.

The flood of 1997 was the silencing of the escalator; a third of it was under water. The cost to repair it is $50,000. It will not be repaired nor replaced.

It is said that escalators were never meant to be transportation, rather amusement. And so it goes. Our favorite thing to do in Winnipeg, Manitoba was to ride the stairway at the big department stores. One, now called The Bay, claims to be the oldest department store chain in Canada. We knew it as the Hudson Bay Company. Another store we visited, not as grand, but considered older, was Eaton's. Eaton's was bought out by Sears/Canada. The last time we were in Winnipeg, the old Eaton's was being torn down.

Why are family went to Canada to shop is unknown. It was about 150 miles and generally considered an over night trip. Mother liked to shop for clothes for Greg there; he was the first one in Thief River Falls to wear 'strides' which were pants that had wider knees and were tight at the ankle, great for biking. He also had a variety of brightly colored cords and shirts to match from the Hudson Bay Store. While they were trying on clothes, I was traveling the escalators up and down and being always aware of mother's warning, "Make sure your shoe laces don't get tangled".

Rachel spent the summer saving her money so she could ride the escalator to second floor and buy a wool suit. I am remembering she got a great suit and because of the money exchange rate at the time, did not have to spend all of it on one garment.

I do remember riding escalator's not only in Winnipeg, where I like to go to the fur coat department and stroke the mink. In Minneapolis, two stores rivaled across the street from one another; Dayton's and Donaldson's. It is certainly possible they had escalators, as well.

Even in Fargo, where the buildings are not multiple story, there are escalators. The airport was remodeled and the escalator was kept or replaced. Ah, a place to go for an amusement ride!

An “inclined elevator,” as an early model was called, was a big hit at Coney Island in 1895, according to the Web site The name “escalator” comes from an early patent holder, who combined “scala” — Latin for stairs — with the already existing word “elevator.”

Have some non-profit fun and slide down the banister!


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