Moving Stairs?

It amazes me sometimes to think about the things we take for granted in today’s world. We talk, text or email people around the world from a little device we carry in our pockets. We scroll through hundreds of channels looking for a show to watch on television. Or to DVR so we can watch it later.

But it wasn’t always so. . . .

Think about walking into Dillard’s or Macy’s or any mall and having no option but a stairway to get to the second or third floor. Sounds pretty far-fetched nowadays, huh?

When I was a kid in the late 1940s and early 1950s, that was standard. Well, not the mall part. We didn’t have such things at all.

If you wanted to go shopping at a department store, you went downtown. In Fort Worth, it was Meacham’s or Monnig’s or Stripling’s or Leonard’s. In Dallas, it was Sanger-Harris or Titche-Goettinger. Downtown.

All of these stores had elevators if you wanted to take the time to find them, but they were small, crowded affairs. My mother always just led us to the stairways.

Then one day we heard an outfit called The Fair Store was going to build store in suburban areas. Department stores not downtown? Wow.

The first one opened in River Oaks, appropriately called Fair Oaks. This wasn’t near enough to our area for us to go there, so we didn’t pay much attention, but then we heard they were going to build Fair Ridglea about three blocks from our house. How cool was that?

Everyone in our neighborhood was excited about having a department store in the area, saving the trip downtown. Then we heard it was going to have a moving stairway. You could just step onto it and it would carry you upstairs while you stood still.

My friends and I could hardly believe such a thing. Automatically opening doors had been a big thing just a few years earlier—but a moving stairway? We couldn’t imagine such a thing.

When the store opened, we just had to ride our bicycles over to check this out. We were barely inside the door when we saw it. Sure enough, not one, but two shining metal stairways stood next to each other. The stairs on one moved upward, while those on the other moved downward. Was this for real?

I’m sure we ran, and probably shoved a bit also, to get onto it. After riding up, we immediately moved over to the other one to go down. Then back up. Then back down. Then up the down one and down the up one.

I don’t remember whether we actually knocked anyone down in this process, but we caused enough trouble a store official came over and firmly invited us to leave. He told us not to come back unless we were with an adult.

Can’t say I blame him. We were pretty disruptive. But it’s not every day a boy makes such a radical discovery as moving stairs.

Ø Think of your early childhood—what things would blow your children’s or grandchildren’s minds compared to their lives today?

Ø How did some of these things from childhood mold your development?

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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17 Responses to Moving Stairs?

  1. David, this is a superb story! Those “moving stairs” were quite a wonder when they came on the scene. This story reminds me of growing up on a farm without electricity for the first five years of my life. My now adult children cannot imagine what that must have been like. Thanks much for your post!

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  2. Jenny Hansen says:

    I’m an escalator fan from way back, but alas, I developed an extreme fear of heights in college (long story). Ever since then, I hang on to escalators and stair rails for all I’m worth!

    David, thanks for visiting More Cowbell last week! We enjoyed having you (I put a new link to you in today’s post). Question: have you asked Kristen to take a peek at your blog site yet?? (And if so, why not…)

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  3. Kathy Garuti says:

    Hi David,

    I am just far enough behind you that we had escalators in some of our downtown Toledo stores. Lunch counters were big deals to me as a small child even if it was only to get a rootbear. Drive-in wefe few and not some place we went. Fast food as we know it today was non-existant. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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  4. Stacy says:

    I remember being terrified the escalator was going to suck me up if I didn’t get off at the precise time. My stomach used to flip-flop the entire ride.

    Fantastic post!

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  5. Piper Bayard says:

    I love escalators! When I was a kid, I would ride them up and down as often as my mom would let me. That said, I’m also the person who blocks the line because I’m scared to just jump on. Have to wait for just the right step. Love this post, David.

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  6. Patty Middleton says:

    Oh yes….I remember well!! The first moving stairs I saw was at Hemphill-Wells in Lubbock! I was fascinated with it and still am a little…..lol
    The change in my life that was so monumental to me was refrigerated air conditioning!! In the summer
    we sweltered, and I remember Daddy put some springs and mattresses in the back yard for us to sleep
    on at night. I loved looking up at the stars, as I finally cooled off from the heat of the day. Those were the days!!!!! :=)

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  7. Telling my grandchildren (once they are old enough) that we didn’t have computers or cell phones when we were growing up would probably blow their minds. I recently took a trip to NYC and had the chance to ride Macy’s original moving stairs. They are made of wood. Can you imagine. It was just a treat to just look at it and then ride it. Most people wouldn’t think twice about the history behind those stairs but I thought it was amazing.

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  8. Jeannie Moon says:

    I remember when I was small, holding my mother’s hand as she stepped on the “escalator” as she called it. Things didn’t go as planned. One of my feet went up, the other stayed on the flood and I was terrified. My mother picked me up so I didn’t get hurt, but to this day, I’m wary of the moving stairs. I have to step on just right.

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  9. Barb Estinson says:

    Yep, I remember the amazement of those moving stairs too. What magic!

    Barb

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