To Charles Schwartz, weekend working had become a tiresome fact of life. Every Saturday and Sunday morning shortly before 8am he left his family apartment in New York's East Brooklyn and drove to the 12- storey office block in the Bronx where he worked as a maintenance man.
His wife Zoe and his children Gene and Yvonne had found there were compensations — Schwartz was off-duty when other dads were working and he took them to the country in the summer, swimming, walking and fishing at his brother's small farm in Vermont. So when on the second Saturday in October, 1965, Schwartz shouldered his lunch pail, put on his tartan anorak and told his family: "See you tonight, folks", they took him at his word.
At least they did until 40-year-old Zoe had an uncanny premonition. Later she was to explain: "Charlie usually got home about 7pm at weekends. His jobs on Saturday and Sunday were routine maintenance in the offices, checking the air-conditioning ... all those sort of jobs.
Two other guys worked with him until lunchtime and then he was on his own until the end of the day. He didn't find it lonely. He took a portable radio and he said he enjoyed not having anyone to tell him what to do. By mid-afternoon, Zoe had hardly given a thought to her husband apart from deciding what to give him for supper.
She had been out to the shops and had called into a neighbour's apartment. Her children, 10-year-old Gene and Yvonne, 12, were out with friends.
"I sat down for a coffee about 3pm and then suddenly I had this premonition. It was so vivid. It was like a dream but I wasn't asleep. I had what I can only describe as a vision of Charlie at work. I saw him get into the elevator to ride up to the top of the building where he would check the air-conditioning filters."
"He was riding up from the third floor by himself. There was no one else in the building when suddenly the elevator car jammed between the eighth and ninth floors. He was banging on the side and shouting but there was no one there to hear him. He also found that the safety-hatch in the top of the car was jammed and there was no way he could get out." I also had this vision that at any moment the elevator would come unstuck and plunge to the bottom of the shaft eight floors below. Zoe's first reaction to the premonition was one of total astonishment. She was not, as she was the first to admit, an imaginative woman. "All my dreams are usually about pretty ordinary things. I am a very balanced person, very down-to-earth."
Which was why Zoe Schwartz promptly dismissed the matter from her mind — at least until she noticed it was 7.15pm and her husband hadn't come home.
"He was invariably home by seven and always rang to say if he'd be late. So when he hadn't arrived I began to wonder if anything had happened and not surprisingly I thought about that strange premonition. At 7.30 I rang Charlie's office. The phone was still plugged through to his extension but there was no reply. I began to get worried and then panicky. I knew I should pull myself together and not make a fool of myself but by them I was convinced something must have happened."""
At 8.30pm, Zoe phoned the building's superintendent and recounted her fears. "You'll think I'm crazy," she said, "but I've got this feeling something has happened to the elevator." The superintendent, a friend of the family, said he'd drive over to the building and make sure everything was in order. But it wasn't. When he let himself into the office block he could hear the sound of knocking coming from the elevator shaft. One of the four lifts wasn't operating. It was jammed between the eighth and ninth floors and someone was inside it.. A fault in the mechanism had jammed the doors on all floors from the fourth to the tenth so there was no way of communicating with the trapped man.
The superintendent called New York fire brigade and a fireman was lowered down the shaft to where the lift was jammed. He saw that the ratchets holding the car in place had bent and that the heavy car was being held by two slender metal prongs which could break at any moment. Over the next two hours a team of experts worked to secure the elevator with cables lowered from beams at the top of the shaft. At 11pm the job was done and an operator with a blow-torch was lowered to hack a hole in the top of the car.
It was shortly after midnight that the haggard figure of Charlie Schwartz appeared through the roof of the elevator and was hauled to safety on a rope harness. The details of his ordeal were almost exactly as his wife had forecast. It had happened at 3pm and he had reconciled himself to a long hungry and lonely wait until the office opened on Monday.
It was when the car started to creak a sway that he realised that the incident could end in disaster. Later he was to tell pressmen:"My wife's premonition probably saved my life. Just how and why she knew what had happened no one can say. But if she hadn't I probably wouldn't be here to tell the tale.