I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
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Telling a true story about a lightbulb to
By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................February 14, 2012
Maybe I missed my calling because I
found so much pleasure recently in reading and telling a story
to two groups of 4-year-olds that I could have made it a career.
But I will never be able to match the skill displayed by acclaimed
storyteller Phyllis Horst.
Through a Kiwanis reading program, I got to visit The Growing
Place and the Childrens Learning Center in DeKalb and spend
time with two classes of preschoolers. I started out with What
time is it, kids? and expected them to reply Its
Howdy Doody Time, but got no such response. Then I asked
a teacher whether she remembered Its a Beautiful
Day in the Neighborhood sung by Mr. Rogers, and she barely
nodded. I must be from a different era.
Anyway, I chose the childrens book The Firehouse
Light by my friend Janet Nolan from Oak Park. The book
is the true story of a light bulb that has been burning for more
than 100 years in a firehouse.
Columnist Barry Schrader reads to a group of 4-year-olds
at the Childrens Learning Center in DeKalb while wearing
a 1901-era outfit to tie in with the story about a 112-year-old
light bulb in Livermore, Calif.
I must digress for a moment to explain that Livermore, Calif.,
has the distinction of owning the longest burning light bulb
in the world. Even Guinness World Records book and Ripleys
Believe It or Not concur. A group of us Livermoreans started
counting the years since it was installed in 1901 in the hose
cart house. Then in 2001, we threw it a 100th birthday party
complete with cake for 300 people, a live band and national TV
Steve Bunn and Dick Jones, my old Sandia Labs colleagues, designed
the website www.centennialbulb.org
and installed a webcam focused on the light bulb high above the
firehouse floor. Anyone who has insomnia can visit the website
to see it glowing 24/7. And if you scroll down to the bottom
of the page you will see nine people seated on a 1954 Mack pumper,
including me up top wearing suspenders.
Every year I try to go back to pay tribute to that bulb and attend
a birthday party with friends for the now nearly 112-year-old
light. The 60-watt bulb (now worn down to four) was made at the
Shelby Electric Co. in Shelby, Ohio, and installed at the firehouse.
It was used as a night light, so it was never turned off except
for brief power outages and while being moved to new stations
twice in its long life. If you look closely, it has the carbon
filament that probably contributes to its longevity.
I read part of the book and added my own personal touch to the
true tale, allowing the children to touch a similar bulb kept
in a box for show and tell. I also cautioned them to never touch
a light bulb that is in a socket or lamp because it could be
hot and burn their fingers.
The last group stayed focused on my story for at least 10 minutes,
then one little boy asked whether I wanted to see their pet python,
Rufus. The snake had been to my left sleeping in his glass-lined
tank, and I had failed to notice it. They told how he was big
enough now three feet and growing to eat a whole
rat and not just two mice once a week like before.
How could I compete with a snake named Rufus? So I closed my
book and bid them goodbye, promising to return in my shiny new
Historymobile in a few months to tell them stories about real
DeKalb County heroes and historical landmarks. The teacher thought
that would be fun to see, so away I went. Now all I have to do
is figure out a way to get that Historymobile up and running.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115