MY FIRST INSTALLATIONS
In September 1963 we settled down after several moves during my younger years. We had lived primarily in rented places in the city. Finally, I had a backyard to eventually display my fixtures, insulators, pole line material, etc. In all my years until I was 15 in 1967 there always was a series radial wave incandescent fixture in front of wherever we lived. Each fixture was different. To my delight, the one in front of our house was an early gooseneck style with a half-round metal head attached to the end of the arm's rusty pipe. The head had two white porcelain knob-type insulators affixed to it for tying the two wires that led down from the crossarm. Its reflector was a double walled type (radial wave) and was attached to the metal head with what looked like a composition material or brown porcelain mushroom shaped insulator in between. The reflector was galvanized on top, white underneath, and like all other Wheeler fixtures on the company's system, 20 inches in diameter. This fixture was a real oldie. Its configuration was such that the lower portion of the porcelain plug-in socket stuck out a little, so you could see the entire lamp. I always liked spending lots of time looking at this fixture at its own height through an upstairs window. I knew of only one other light like this one. It was directly in front of a utility employee's house and as a fringe benefit to this person; the fixture had a big 2500 lumen lamp sticking out of it. What a sight that was to see and remember!
Upon moving into our new house that fall, it was my mission to waste no time in setting up my own personal pole and installing my own version of a street light fixture on it. I did not have an authentic streetlight in my possession at the time so I had to devise my own, using a little ingenuity. So, out behind our garage I set up an old 5 by 7 inch, 10-foot, square post and for its street light I used a bare aluminum hula-hoop cut in half as an arm; a can or something similar as a fixture head; and a pie plate painted white underneath as a reflector. I don't know how I held it all together but I ran a couple wires through the hula-hoop to a dry cell battery, which illuminated the flashlight bulb set in the middle of my homemade reflector. Set up about 8 to 10 feet off the ground my first active street light looked more and more fabulous as I looked at it the first night I activated it. It was really quite a thrill! This primitive installation set the stage for more street light displays around the perimeter of our yard for the next four years.
EARLY COLLECTING ADVENTURES
I have no idea what my first street light fixture or bulb was, however from 1964 to 1967 I had quite a variety of both since I frequently followed our utility's crews around, making very good friends with them, frequently spending lots of time with these people during after school hours and on days off. After school activities, watching television, etc., was a real waste of my time so I usually found out where the line crews were located and visited with them. They were always cordial and glad to see me when I arrived on my bicycle. I was treated to any street light fixtures, insulators, etc., retired from service before they headed back for the day. Their contributions proved to be a good resource for items I needed for my displays and collection. For a short period of time I had access to the "burned out bulb barrel" at the utility's headquarters across town. This "stash" was inside a small, unlocked room by the outside door with a stairway that led up to the dispatcher's office. On a daily basis the night troubleman would toss discards into this barrel. Although uncommonly found, I acquired a few old mercury lamps for my collection there and I usually left with a shopping bag full of burned out incandescents for displaying with the several lights I had set up in our yard, as I will soon describe. To fulfill my quest for mercury lamps for my collection, upon noticing ore burned out, I would call the company stating the exact location of the burn out. As hoped and to my delight, the burned out bulb usually turned up in the barrel the next day! I made these call- in reports on occasion, and I remember one time the dispatcher replied stating "We have to put you on the payroll for your work" after obviously recognizing my voice from all my calls.
Fearing I would get cut from broken glass or just not plain understanding, I was eventually told by one of the troublemen that I could no longer enter the premises, which was a huge disappointment to me. However, I let a few weeks pass and on quiet weekends I made numerous quick visits to the bulb barrel. That lasted until that final encounter when I was shooed out forever by one of the utility's senior troublemen, with firm threats voiced at me should I ever reappear there again. It was altogether too bad that their troublemen simply did not understand my intentions and hobby pursuits like most other employees there did. That was about late 1965. All was not lost, however. I was still able to obtain street lighting stuff and other artifacts from the local line crews who were much more understanding and friendly!