Buying Light Bulbs

Yeah Really!

By Donald Joy

Today I had to buy light bulbs to replace some that had stopped working. Yeah, I know you may be thinking, what's this idiot rambling on about now. But because of all the delving back in my mind of days long past, caused me to recall buying light bulbs back in those times. Worths, the hardware store that we referred to as "the oil shop" was where we used to buy our new light bulbs. Now comes the relevant part of this post. When you bought a bulb they would be plugged into a lampholder fixed either on the counter or just behind and switched on to test that they actually worked. Not something that happens today nor for a long time since then. You don't get that type of service anymore, you just buy them, take them home and hope they work. Memories are great, no matter how trivial they may seem.

This page was added by Donald Joy on 16/12/2015.
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Sorry Nina and any others who only had gas lights, mains or bottled.  Did not write this to gloat or try to be superior in any way  My grandparents had gas lights with the mantles you mention, they used to fascinate me.  How could that little scrap of material produce light?  Life was always full of mystery to me at that age, not much cleverer now either.

By Donald Joy
On 20/12/2015

Now that does bring back some memories Alan, (not that I will ever forget).  The long unmade path we had to walk to reach our bungalow was completely unlit and never did have any street lights installed (nor did Alexandra Road ever have a road sign).  In the winter it was literally pitch black apart from a few stars twinkling above.  I knew every part of the way in the dark by memory, every bush, the gates of the four or five bungalows I passed along the way, the muddy bits, the parts where wooden planks had been laid down and patches of ashes and even winkle shells that were used to fill the pot holes.   Walking west along the unmade part of King Edward Road, I knew exact where and when to turn north into Alexandra Road and eventually the path that led to our bungalow.

I believe the gas main was laid along this unmade road and connected to the bungalows in the mid 30s.  At that time our bungalow, Spion Kop, was only occupied at weekends, and although I’m not entirely sure why, it was never connected to the gas main.  Maybe it was because our bungalow was the very last one to the far north and it was thought would only ever be used at weekends.  When my parents moved into our bungalow permanently in 1938, they had to rely on calor gas cylinders.  However, as my maternal grandparents had been permanent residents from 1923, their bungalow, Pendennis, was connected to the mains gas and Nan even had a gas fridge.

I try to imagine how it was for those in even earlier years, especially my maternal grandparents who moved to Alexandra Road from Bethnal Green in 1923.  In those winters, without light (apart from those who had a hurricane lamp), I believe most people went to bed very early.  

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 20/12/2015

Nina's reference to gas lighting evoked a very early memory. I can remember, as a very young lad, when the High Road was lighted (barely lighted actually) by gas. I cannot remember how many gas lights were situated along the High Road or if they extended north and south beyond the main shopping area. What I can remember is that in the evening, as dusk approached, a man would walk along the High Road with a ladder. He would stop at each iron post which held a gas lamp at the top. On each side of the post, just below the gas light itself, were arms which extended perhaps two feet from the post. Against one of these arms he would position his ladder, climb up, and turn on the gas light. Thus, he would make his way along the High Road from lamp to lamp. In the early morning he would reverse the process, turning off the gas lamps. 

Obviously the timing must have varied as the days became longer or shorter. I cannot remember when the gas lights were replaced but I assume it must have been post war. In fact I wonder if, with lighting regulations in effect, they were lit at all during the war. Perhaps my memory is, in fact, from pre-war.

These were the days when anyone venturing out after dark routinely took a torch with them. Other than the High Road, St Nicholas Lane and a couple of other paved roads, there was no street lighting at all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. And, of course, one always needed a torch to visit the loo at the bottom of the garden. Once inside the loo, one would have welcomed a third hand as both hands were needed for the various purposes that the visit necessitated, leaving no hand spare to hold the torch.

By Alan Davies
On 20/12/2015

Prior to 1957, we didn't have electricity in our bungalow.  We used calor gas.  The light bulbs we used were called 'mantles' and had little pully chains to turn them on and off and had to be lit with a match.  Occasionally one would 'pop', burn out and go black.  When we were eventually connected to the electricity supply in 1957, I was amazed at how bright electric light was.  However, I have always considered that gas light is much softer and kinder to the eyes and I really dislike the iridescent strip lights in shops and offices etc.   

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 19/12/2015

I frequently listen to Richard Spendlove show on BBC Radio Essex (broadcast from Cambridge) - Saturday evenings from 9pm.  He often mentions ''light bulbs'' - apparently he has a garage stocked up with the old type because he can't be doing with these new fangled things! My mum worked for Worths, proceeds of which went towards items for my ''bottom drawer''  now what was that?  (Another triviality).

By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell)
On 19/12/2015
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