Photo: Roving Rube
02 December 28

Midtown Holidays

Otis escalators


Otis escalators, 575 5th Avenue 

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One winter, many years ago, the Rube's Mom organized an expedition into Manhattan to see a Broadway show, "On the Twentieth Century". The adolescent Rube declined to go to the show, his stated reason being that he needed new glasses and wouldn't be able to see the actors on-stage properly without them. So, after lunch at Cafe Un Deux Trois, which his Mom chose after reading in New York magazine about their then-novelty of having crayons to draw on the tablecloths, the Rube was left to explore midtown on his own while his Mom and sister went to the show.

He spent his time riding the escalators in the department stores, something he felt equal to in this intimidating city. The more floors he could go up, the better. There were two-story malls in New Jersey, with escalators, but to be borne up eight or ten floors, as in Manhattan, was new to him. The escalators got narrower on the higher floors and sometimes turned into wood.

575 Fifth Avenue was one of his early escalator hangouts in the city, along with Macy's, the Herald Square Mall (formerly Gimbel's), and Trump Tower. 575 is strange in that there seldom seem to be many shoppers in it, and there is no place to eat (except for Rusty Staub's -- the famous Met's slugger -- in the basement, which back then lent some New York glamour to the place). One sport store specializes in jerseys from Japanese baseball teams. Above the top escalator is a ceiling made of colored glass.

It is lucky for those who don't share the Rube's fascination with escalators that he has since expanded his NYC interests somewhat, but be forewarned that there is now an escalator theme week in NYCJPG's future ...

In context Restore Image From the second floor Going down Last year, with his old camera