Jackson was a Water Use Inspector and Principal Water Use Inspector at the Dept. of WSG&E, Manhattan DEP. He joined Local 237 in 1952 and retired in 1983.
I went to a building somewhere in the 50s between Park and Madison Avenues. My job was to verify the previous reading before billing the taxpayer. Upon entering the building, I took the self-service elevator to the basement. There I verified the index and tested and inspected the meter, seal, and seal wire. Having completed my inspection, I pressed the elevator button. There was no response.
I then went to the street trap, which I had noticed when entering the building was padlocked. After several minutes of knocking on the street trap, a young man who exited the building heard my knocking. I asked if he would please go back into the building and send the elevator to the basement. Several minutes later he called to me from the street and told me the elevator would only go up and down to the first floor level. He asked me what he could do. My response was, “Please call the Police Department and tell them that a New York City Water Inspector is trapped in the basement of this building.
After waiting awhile, I heard some hustling and bustling and finally the street trap doors were opened.
Upon ascending to the street, I saw two police officers and their squad car.
I looked at my watch and thanked each officer individually while getting their names and shield numbers, all of which was necessary for the report that I would file with my summary sheet.
Needless to say, any police action usually attracts people. When I came out of the basement there was a sizeable amount of spectators. Some were surprised when I shook the officers’ hands and thanked them.
Just another day in the life of a Water Inspector working in Manhattan.
Hercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.
Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.