Merry Christmas! ... and an anecdote for you - RF Cafe Forums
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Post subject: Merry Christmas! ... and an anecdote for
Posted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:20 pm
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Erie, PA
While watching A Christmas Story tonight (for about the
umpteenth time), memories of my family's Christmas came to mind
and it made me think about how much of a hazard those old
electric lights were. The strings of lights we - and most people
in the 1960s - used were the kind that had the candelabra size
lamp bases. They were all wired in parallel so that each bulb
received the full 120 VAC. Unlike today's 2-wire lamp cords,
those of the day did not have polarized plugs to ensure that the
outside contact of the screw base would be connected to the
neutral wire and the hot wire would contact in the bottom
center. That meant there was a 50-50 chance that while you were
unscrewing a burnt-out bulb to replace it while the string was
still plugged in, you could easily get a shock.
that comforting thought that a popular Christmas tree light
adornment back then was a pressed aluminum reflector that was
installed by passing the bulb base through it before screwing
the bulb into the socket. If that baby happened to come into
contact with a bulb base when the plug was inserted into the
wall socket the wrong way, presto, a big surface full of 120 V!
Fortunately, they were - at least when new - covered with a thin
transparent colored film.
Add to that the fact that
those buggers (the bulbs) got high enough in temperature to burn
the skin off the end of your fingers. Combine that with a tree
that had been cut back in September and by then had had no water
osmosisizing[sic] through its veins for nearly four months.
Smokey the Bear had nightmares over that scenario, I'm sure.
A coup de gras was the heavy metallic tinsel icicles that
we'd hang from the tree boughs. That stuff wasn't like the
lightweight metalized plastic stuff in use today. It must have
had lead in it. So not only was it yet another opportunity for
an electrical shock if it found its way onto a hot bulb socket,
but possibly also could have caused lead poisoning to boot (of
course, you'd have to eat it, which I don't recall doing).
Just like standing on our heads in the back seat of the family
car or sleeping up on the package shelf in the back while Mom &
Dad chatted away up front, you have to wonder how enough of us
survived the natural selection process to proliferate the
Oh, one thing I'd like to ask. Did anyone
else's parents insist that it was Santa Claus's job to decorate
the Christmas Tree, and that the mortals were to merely erect
the tree in a stand a couple days prior, then hang the lights on
Christmas Eve? Part of our Christmas morn treat was a fully
decorated tree. My father hearkened from the Buffalo, NY area.
Maybe it was a regional thing. Were we alone?
- Kirt Blattenberger
RF Cafe Progenitor & Webmaster