Stories: Fallout

In 1960, then, two important things happened to Andrew. One was that the mushroom people went bankrupt and went out of the cave and, two, the Portland cement people came up with a new formula that matched his. But Andrew wasn’t one to take this lying down. He was still very energetic even though he was, at this time, approaching “old age.” He said, “I’ll build my own Portland cement plant.” He knew very well the history of Rosendale limestone failing to make Portland cement, but he said, “Where those old-timers couldn’t do it, I’m going to do it!” He built a new Portland cement plant; he set up new kilns, new types of kilns. And when he fired up those kilns everybody within a ten-mile radius knew that Andrew was trying to make Portland cement: the odor was horrible! It smelled like a rotten cabbage-patch. It as terrible; particularly bad on a hot, humid, summer day when there was no wind. We thought we would be driven out of the hotel business. Andrew tried everything to make that kiln work and brought in experts from all over the world. (And this was in the days before air-pollution laws so there was no one to say, “Hold on Andrew, you can’t do this.”) After about three years of sincere, hard work he threw in the sponge. He recognized his obligation to the community: he was annoying his neighbors with the horrible smell. He shut the mill down and lost a lot of money in the process. But he still had a “few bucks” left so it didn’t bother him too much.

Another event occurred in 1960: Castro came on the scene in Cuba at about that time. And we all went through the stage of, “Where are we going to build our bomb-proof shelter? Is it going to be in the cellar, in the back yard, in the garage?” We all went through that trauma. Well, Andrew had an idea that, “By golly, that cave that the mushroom people just left would be a good place to store business records! Atomic-proof, fire-proof, everything you’d want for safety in the event of a disaster.” He sold this idea to some businessmen and they formed what was then called the New York Underground Storage Facility. He leased, with a portion of the gross receipts to go towards the additional lease payment. The original sales pitch was: “Build your alternate business headquarters underground: Atomic-proof and fire-proof.”

In recent times the sales pitch is not so much of an atomic disaster situation but rather as an alternate business headquarters or for the storage of vital business record so that, in case of a fire in an office or factory, there will be back-up records. There are a number of Fortune-500 companies located down in that cave and each one has its own particular function. There is a record-retrieval service, a microfilming service, and a delivery service. There is a New York messenger service going back and forth every day of the week so if some company in New York City wants something out of a particular file, they can pick it out and deliver it.