Movin’ on up

Who knew? Columbia has room to be a two-escalator town
Wednesday, October 29, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:46 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Thrill seekers may now glide up and down Columbia’s second public escalator.

With the recent grand opening of the two-level Famous-Barr department store, J.C. Penney no longer operates the only public escalator within city limits.

“It’s squeaky,” said Lisa Berry of Columbia, who rode Famous-Barr’s escalator Tuesday with her husband Robert.

“It’s fun to ride,” said 8-year-old Landon Monroe on Tuesday, a first-time Famous-Barr shopper.

Wanda Mahan of Columbia said she prefers escalators to the stairs and admits she has a real phobia of feeling trapped inside elevators.

“It’s much better than stairs, and definitely better than elevators,” she said.

The store’s manager, Sue Johnson, said people packed the new mechanical staircase at last week’s grand opening.

“I’m glad I can be part of the nostalgia of being the second store in Columbia with an escalator,” she said.

Two weeks before the grand opening, the store’s entire work force followed fire department orders to test the new device, and just for fun, sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” said 26-year-old Jacqueline Acton, a sales associate in the store’s second-level housewares department.

A third escalator without public access runs inside the State Farm Insurance Building.

An early version of the escalator was introduced in 1891 as a novelty ride at Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Otis Elevator Co. manufactured the first escalator for public use and introduced it at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. J.C. Penney brought the first public escalator to Columbia in the mid-1980s.

Bob and June Young stepped aboard the escalators at both Famous Barr and J.C. Penney during their Tuesday afternoon shopping excursion.

“It’s smoother, it’s newer and it’s wider,” said Bob Young, referring to Famous Barr’s escalator.

His wife, June Young, wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic.

“To me, an escalator’s an escalator,” she said.

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