Collection Four in Elevator World’s Hall of Humor
by William C. Sturgeon
Joe Matuscak, John McNally, Syd Chivers and other multi-talented men who had “worked with the tools” and on the drawing board, knew the essence of graphic humor and could take fellow industry members “in a flash to a clash” between two or more planes of reference; the collision between the old familiar atmosphere/activity with the unimaginable. These fieldmen/cartoonists were able to create an authentic setting that made fellow industry members comfortable, then snatch them out of the pleasant environment as if with a sky hook or drop into a pit! Laughter, chuckle or a knowing smile was the result, a short step from the sublime to the ridiculous, affording temporary relief from the pressures and monotony of everyday life.
This trio of cartoonists and a number of others, over a period of almost 45 years, took the writer and many others who had worked with the tools and managed contracting companies down a familiar path of memories, albeit one filled with exaggeration, irreverence and the improbable. About half of the cartoons published related to, and were best understood by, the “insiders” of the “elevator world” — the hands-on manipulators of worms, gears, hydraulic jacks, pumping units, controllers, guide rails, buffers, wire rope, signals, fixtures, cabs and doors. The industry had a unique “cradle to the grave” oversight of installations, and the cartoonist depicted every phase. As the elevator union specified a team of men on the job, many situations here relate to the mechanic and his helper. The industry-knowledgeable cartoonist skillfully scrambled the traditional picture of serious, well-trained, safety-conscious field men. They knew the maximum response is produced when graphic artists are disdainful of that traditionally respected, picturing not too bright bumblers who create their special kind of chaos and misadventures as they ineffectually inhabit a job site! The cartoonists knew the nature of the elevator union from long relationships and also fired a few shots in its direction!