By Steve Warmowski
Ed Bergschneider’s curiosity about a new WSEC television tower south of Franklin led him to buy the old transmitter tower as well as a ride to the top to inspect his purchase.
Bergschneider, 85, said 18 years ago when the television station erected the original transmitter, “I was down there quite a bit when they built the first one, I had nothing better to do.” In May, the television station upgraded its transmitter. So, a replacement tower was erected that could handle the new load, and the old tower had to be disassembled and hauled off.
He approached the workers at the construction site and said, “I guess I’m not supposed to be here, but I am now,” and just started talking to them. The conversation led to finding out the crew’s contract included disposal of the old tower. When Bergschneider asked the project manager what he’d take for the old tower, he asked Bergschneider what he was going to do with it.
Bergschneider said he could take the 20-foot sections and build treehouses for his grandchildren’s families. (Bergschneider is the father of nine and has 20 grandchildren). His other thought was to run cables between a pair of towers to make zip lines or maybe some solid deer stands.
Whatever Bergschneider was going to end up doing, the project manager figured it was a better deal to have Bergschneider take the 48 sections rather than having his company pay to haul them off to a scrapyard.
But before the sale would be finalized, Bergschneider said he’d want to inspect the tower to make sure he wasn’t buying a rusted piece of junk. Soon Bergschneider was attached to a cable, with a tower worker clamped on 10 feet above him, for a ride up to the top. Bergschneider had a camera with him, but it was stuck in his pocket due to the safety harness he was wearing. But his tower worker companion was nice enough to capture some photographs of Bergschneider and the view. Bergschneider owns Franklin Elevator, so he’s somewhat used to heights from climbing to inspect his operations. He also has a pilot’s license which he earned a year before graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1957.
From the television tower, a mile south of Franklin, Bergschneider could look down on his elevator. He also thought “it was neat” to look down on another communication tower located outside of Franklin. His whole trip took about an hour, including 15 minutes to go up and another 15 minutes to come down.
After the fact, Bergschneider was talking to Ron Keas, a mutual friend of Scotty DeWolf and an artist from California who recently completed a commissioned painting of Bergschneider. “Before he could ask me why in the world did I go up on something like that, I said ‘because it’s there. Just like Mount Everest, Hillary went on top of it.’” Keas wrote back, “oh, you’re talking about Sir Edmund Hillary.”
After his adventure, Bergschneider said he ended up selling the tower segments to Jake Lamb Co., of Greenfield, which makes support structures for conveyors at grain elevators, for the initial price he paid. All he has now is the antenna from the top of the tower.
“I’ll probably have the most unique 53-foot flag pole in the area”