Bernson's Corner: Elevator Operator - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Bernson's Corner: Elevator Operator

In our digitized, high-tech, high-definition world, it's refreshing sometimes to discover some people who steadfastly refuse to travel the information super-highway.

Take a journey with me into Bernson's Corner where the tech is low and the pace is slow.

The Commodore has commanded a view of Louisville's Highlands for more than 90 years. It was built as an apartment building, now condominiums. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. But it's what's inside that's a unique and moving experience

Welcome to the home of the last human elevator operator in the state of Kentucky. On this shift, Gloria George is your personal pilot, taking residents up and down the Commodore's eleven floors.

"It's totally safe, it runs very well. It's as efficient as it could possibly be for being nearly 100 years old," said building manager, Geoff Wilkinson.

The antique Otis system is run by this unit about the size of a Smart car up in the attic. The electric relays snap and spark, the cable winds and unwinds around a drum.

"When things break, we can't just go to the hardware store and pick up a part," said Wilkinson.

Gloria spends eight hours surrounded by mahogany walls decorated with 1920's era lights. When she's not rising and descending, she's polishing the brass, and taking great pride in her job.  "Everybody here is very friendly. The workers really enjoy it. They make you feel like you're at home, don't nobody have an attitude," said Gloria.  "This right here, it's real smooth when you get to the floor that you want. You know, when you're coming up and you stop at that floor -- but when you go down, you have to ease it down, and it'll stop when you want to stop." 

Commodore residents steadfastly refuse to abide an automated elevator, like the ones found in almost every other high-rise building in the world.  "The human-ness of that sort of contact -- it's just great.  I like it very much -- it reminds me of the old days," said Commodore resident Mitzi Friedlander.

So many things in our world have become impersonal and computerized -- from telephone calls to bank transactions -- that an elevator operated by a living breathing human being seems an anachronism, a dinosaur surviving into the 21st century. It's nice to know that one dinosaur is still on the rise.

Wilkinson says as long as he's in charge and the bills keep getting paid, the elevator will stay.

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