Lion November 2012 : Page 32

The Bulb That Would Not Die by John Hale I remember 1990. My stepdaughter, Elizabeth, a spunky 16-year-old rebel, sported orange hair. Outside her bed-room on the second floor, 30 photos of my father hung on the wall. My mother made the collage to remember my fa-ther, who had died a few years earlier. When I stood at the base of the stairs, I’d say, “Good night, Elizabeth.” Then I’d flick the switch for the bulb and the upstairs hallway went dark. That was the year I bought a newfangled CFL bulb for that hallway. I remember that clearly. I also am certain I never changed that bulb. It never failed to turn on, even as Elizabeth changed her hairstyle from orange to burgundy to red and then completely shaved her head. It stayed lit even as she moved to Boston, where today she is an aspir-ing photographer. Last March, the 15-watt bulb I bought from the Monmouth Lions in Maine finally burned out. I think I paid a whole $5 for it. When I tell people about my super bulb, they are amazed. But they sometimes shake their heads a bit and smile wryly. I am a frugal New Englander. My 1996 Saturn wagon has 175,000 miles on it. I have a stack of records from Harry Belafonte and Burl Ives that date back to the 1940s. But 22 years for a light bulb used a lot? Our master bed-room is upstairs, too, so the super bulb was turned on and off at least twice a day. Most conventional incandescent light bulbs burn out in a matter of months, sometimes only weeks, in our house. Changing bulbs in awkward places sometimes seems like a full-time job to me, a 66-year-old retired newspaper reporter. We hear that we live in a “throwaway society,” which carelessly discards disposable razors, microwave food con-tainers, aerosol cans and used-up batteries. It’s rewarding to find a product that lasts and lasts. “What you experienced is really phenomenal,” Alfred LaSpina, product manager for CFL lighting for OSRAM Sylvania's North American operations, told me. OSRAM manufactured our bulb before it acquired Syl-vania’s lighting division in 1993. “You have a really amaz-ing story there. You got the maximum lifespan of the bulb. CFLs as products are only 25 years old. You've really got a great lamp there,” LaSpina said. Frank Whittier, a salesman at the Lighting Concepts store in Lewiston, said of our bulb, “I’ve heard of some that have lasted eight to 10 years with minimal use, but none that lasted as long as yours did.” The world in 1990 was a different place. The average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.34 and the Dow Jones In-dustrial Average ended the year at 2,633. Cell phones were still in their infancy, East and West Germany merged into a single Germany and the Detroit Pistons, the “bad boys” 32 LION NOVEMBER 2012

An Amazing Light Bulb

John Hale

<br /> The Bulb That Would Not Die<br /> <br /> I remember 1990. My stepdaughter, Elizabeth, a spunky 16-year-old rebel, sported orange hair. Outside her bedroom on the second floor, 30 photos of my father hung on the wall. My mother made the collage to remember my father, who had died a few years earlier. When I stood at the base of the stairs, I’d say, “Good night, Elizabeth.” Then I’d flick the switch for the bulb and the upstairs hallway went dark.<br /> <br /> That was the year I bought a newfangled CFL bulb for that hallway. I remember that clearly. I also am certain I never changed that bulb. It never failed to turn on, even as Elizabeth changed her hairstyle from orange to burgundy to red and then completely shaved her head. It stayed lit even as she moved to Boston, where today she is an aspiring photographer.<br /> <br /> Last March, the 15-watt bulb I bought from the Monmouth Lions in Maine finally burned out. I think I paid a whole $5 for it.<br /> <br /> When I tell people about my super bulb, they are amazed. But they sometimes shake their heads a bit and smile wryly. I am a frugal New Englander. My 1996 Saturn wagon has 175,000 miles on it. I have a stack of records from Harry Belafonte and Burl Ives that date back to the 1940s.<br /> <br /> But 22 years for a light bulb used a lot? Our master bedroom is upstairs, too, so the super bulb was turned on and off at least twice a day. Most conventional incandescent light bulbs burn out in a matter of months, sometimes only weeks, in our house. Changing bulbs in awkward places sometimes seems like a full-time job to me, a 66-year-old retired newspaper reporter.<br /> <br /> We hear that we live in a “throwaway society,” which carelessly discards disposable razors, microwave food containers, aerosol cans and used-up batteries. It’s rewarding to find a product that lasts and lasts.<br /> <br /> “What you experienced is really phenomenal,” Alfred LaSpina, product manager for CFL lighting for OSRAM Sylvania's North American operations, told me.<br /> <br /> OSRAM manufactured our bulb before it acquired Sylvania’s lighting division in 1993. “You have a really amazing story there. You got the maximum lifespan of the bulb. CFLs as products are only 25 years old. You've really got a great lamp there,” LaSpina said.<br /> <br /> Frank Whittier, a salesman at the Lighting Concepts store in Lewiston, said of our bulb, “I’ve heard of some that have lasted eight to 10 years with minimal use, but none that lasted as long as yours did.”<br /> <br /> The world in 1990 was a different place. The average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.34 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the year at 2,633. Cell phones were still in their infancy, East and West Germany merged into a single Germany and the Detroit Pistons, the “bad boys” of the NBA, won their second straight NBA title. Saddam Hussein's Iraq invaded Kuwait, which eventually led to the Gulf War.<br /> <br /> Don Ham, 94, a Monmouth Lion, said the local light bulb sale ran from about 1960 to 1998. Lions went door-to-door in pairs, selling the light bulbs after dividing the town into sections.<br /> <br /> “The last year we did it, we raised around $2,400,” said Bill Mann, club treasurer. “That used to be our primary fundraiser.”<br /> <br /> The light bulb revenue was used to pay for student scholarships, Christmas baskets and a free Thanksgiving dinner for seniors, says Lion Archie Wing, who knows a few things about durability. He joined the club in 1953.<br /> <br /> Wing said in the early ‘90s the Monmouth club offered customers a choice of either conventional bulbs or the more expensive CFL bulbs. "Some took one kind and some took the other," he said.<br /> <br /> “I never heard of one lasting as long as yours did,” he added. “I put some of them in and I don't remember ever replacing any of them. It’s unusual for them to last that long.”<br /> <br /> Curious, I did a little research. Our light bulb was made in the United States by OSRAM, a German-based company that bought Sylvania in 1993. Last year, OSRAM Sylvania, based in Danvers, Massachusetts, manufactured the last conventional bulbs in the United States under federal energy policy. When the conventional bulbs have all been sold, consumers’ only choice will be CFL bulbs.<br /> <br /> CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamp. It is lighted by a combination of phosphors and mercury vapor inside a glass tube. There are two basic types: the tubular type, which we had, and the spiraling helix tube. Our bulb was a 15-watt light, but it gave off the light of a 60-watt bulb.<br /> <br /> CFLs cost more than incandescent bulbs, but they use less energy and they last longer. In fact, CFLs can save five times their purchase price over their lifetime. Conventional light bulbs have a life expectancy of 750 to 1,000 hours of use. CFL bulbs have a life expectancy of 6,000 to 15,000 hours.<br /> <br /> It’s too bad Lions no longer sell the bulbs because Karlene, my wife, and I would surely buy another. But we do patronize the Monmouth Lions’ Hunter’s Breakfast. We fill up on scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries and pancakes. It’s not the same as 22 years, but my guess is that we hardly eat for two days after the annual breakfast.<br /> <br /> This CFL light bulb, sold by the Monmouth Lions Club to Karlene and John Hale in North Monmouth, Maine, served faithfully for 22 years before finally burning out last March.

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