We all think of California, when we think of Hollywood. Of course, these days we also think of politics, and we wish we didn’t have to associate one with the other, because it has ruined the whole theme of Hollywood. Be that as it may, there was a time when Hollywood wasn’t in California. It was in New York. So, what happened?

The film industry started in 1878, when Eadweard Muybridge first demonstrated the power of photography to capture motion. It was an amazing new concept, and it started the ball rolling to what would become modern-day films. In 1894, the world’s first commercial motion-picture exhibition was given in New York City. This wouldn’t have been possible without Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope. The kinetoscope is an early motion-picture device in which the images were viewed through a peephole. While Edison’s kinetoscope made film possible, it also became a big part of the problem that caused the film industry to make a major move.

Edison had patented his kinetoscope…as he should have, but in all, he had patents on over 1,000 different things. These patents included most of the technology needed to make high-end movies. The Edison Manufacturing Company’s patent lawsuits against each of its domestic competitors crippled the US film industry. The turmoil reduced production mainly to two companies…Edison and Biograph, which used a different camera design. The others had to import French and British films, which was not how anyone wanted things to go. In the end, Edison pretty much put himself out of the industry.

In the following decades, production of silent film greatly expanded. Studios formed and migrated to California, and films and the stories they told became much longer. The main reason for the move to California was to escape the Edison patent lawsuits, but there were other reasons too. It turned out that the milder climate made it easier to finish films, due to better weather. These days, that doesn’t matter so much. What weather patterns can’t be created, can simply be traveled to, so filming can go on year-round.

Wyoming has just two escalators, and they are both located in Casper. One is at Hilltop National Bank, and the other is at First Interstate Bank, in the historic part of Casper, the downtown district. My connection is to the escalator at First Interstate Bank, which was First National Bank then. The building that the bank occupies is located at 104 South Wolcott Street. Construction began in in 1956, the year I was born. According to a write up on, “That building opened in June 1958. A pamphlet published by the First National Bank of Casper around 1959 stated: “The dream of the directors began to take shape in 1953, when Architect Robert Wehrli presented preliminary plans for the bank and tower building that was to rise at First and Wolcott…” At the time of its completion it was the tallest building in the state and featured the state’s first escalator. Drive-through windows and two levels of underground parking were introduced in the early 1960s.”

So, I’m sure you are wondering what that information and that building could possibly have to do with me. Well, with the pamphlet came a public invitation to tour the new bank at their open house. My mother, Collene Spencer decided to go and take her three daughters with her, my older sister, Cheryl, who was 5 then; my younger sister, Caryl, who was a baby; and her 3 year old daughter…me. The open house was very cool, and there were a lot of people there. We toured every floor, and found it all to be interesting and sparkling with newness. Of course, the highlight of the whole bank was the escalator. It was the first one in the state and everyone wanted to see it, and have a ride…and we were no different.

As we prepared to leave, my mom assisted me into the escalator, and then turned for my sister, Cheryl, who had stepped aside to look at something. By the time Mom got Cheryl on the escalator, I was a couple of people ahead of them. It had only taken a couple of seconds really. Nevertheless, my place in historic downtown Casper was sealed. As I approached the bottom, the older woman in front of me wasn’t sure just how to get off. In her momentary panic, she started backstepping. At 3 years of age, I had no idea how to do that, and so when my feet hit hers, it pushed her off of the escalator, and I fell. My screams could be heard all over the bank. My frilly dress became entangled in the sharp teeth of the escalator’s steps as they cut my elbow and chin. With that incident, while few people ever knew about it, and you would not read about it in any historical accounts, I became the first person injured on the first escalator in Wyoming. The bank president came running over, promising to pay for medical bills and a new dress, while begging my mother not to sue the bank. Of course, back then things were different, and a lawsuit was the last thing on my mother’s mind. For me, while I was only 3, the picture of that woman backstepping on the escalator steps has always remained clear and vivid in my memory files, and the scars on chin and elbow remain too. While I can use escalators, I still get a pain in the pit of my stomach every time I get on or off.

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