Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nighty Night Light

One odd quirk of the wandering midlife mind is the occasional daydream and sudden recollection of things that have seemingly disappeared without much notice.  While driving in to work this week, I suddenly realized that the old fashioned "search light" is a thing of the past.  No, not the little dinky lights one occasionally finds on boats or on buildings.  I mean the big, honkin' truck sized lights of my childhood.
Growing up in Bridgetown, on Cincinnati's west side, we lived about two miles away from the Western Hills Plaza and the Western Woods (mini) Mall and, usually, once a month, when I was a boy, a local store would set up a search light--particularly around the holidays.  The Plaza, in particular, was the frequent host of search lights--often in front of McAlpins.  These lights were amazing, powering up a solid beam of light that could be seen for several miles.  The luminescent shafts would lazily swing back and forth, beckoning one and all to the pot at the end of the rainbow.
Up close, the "pot"was amazing.  As a boy, I had no understanding of the engineering behind a "carbon-arc filament."   All I saw was a big bowl, as large as a Volkswagen, with a polished mirror back and a bright flame in the middle.  The apparatus made noise and a hissing sound as it rocked back and forth on the back of a large trailer or on a truck.  Only recently did I learn that Cincinnati was a national hotbed for searchlight technology, thanks to the Carlisle and Finch light-works company, which still manufactures searchlights, albeit smaller versions.
I also recently found a web-site dedicated to searchlights and even found some old ones for sale.  But a brief scan of the Yellow Pages reveals that, alas, no one within a hundred miles of Cincinnati still rents the "big" lights anymore.  Maybe if I find a few extra pennies under the couch, it would be an interesting side business.
But who, really, am I fooling?  The wide-eyed boy from 40-years ago has been replaced by a new generation of kids brought up in an era of computers and other stimuli.  Merlin's magical lights pale in comparison to the wizardry of the electronic age.  If only the searchlights could "do battle" or morph into laser-shaped monster characters or something.   *sigh*
No, perhaps, the search light is best left on the shelf with baseball cards, the drive-in theater, Shillito's Christmas display, the C G and E trains and a host of other once-amazing memories of a mid-life guy who spends too much time living in the past.

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