A Full 100 Watts

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I just replaced a light bulb.  How ordinary, you might think.  And you would be right, except for one thing – I just used my very last 100 watt incandescent light bulb.

My mother must have liked bright light because when I was growing up there were always plenty of 100 watt light bulbs in the closet.  Anything less was sort of considered inferior in our house.  Perhaps this is why so many of her lamp shades eventually developed brown spots from the ungodly heat those things put out through the decades.

Maybe others considered 100 watts as the standard.  How many times have I heard someone of less-than-stellar intelligence described as “short of a hundred watts”?  And anyway, doesn’t more mean better?  It certainly was when my Mom was growing up.  I lost count of the times she would walk into a room where I was reading and say “For Heaven’s sake, turn on a light!”  I wonder if my report cards would have been better if I had listened more often.

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But anyway, the 100 watt light bulb has finally gone the way of the dodo bird at my house.  For a long time it was mostly 60 and 75 watt incandescent bulbs that lit our home.  I suppose this could mean that I am not as bright as my mother was.  On the other hand, our lamp shades have aged better.

I stubbornly stuck with my trusted incandescent bulbs when the world (briefly) embraced the compact fluorescent bulb.  You remember – those twirly things that started out dim when you first flipped the switch and slowly brightened to a harsh light that made every room look like an insurance claims office.  If you have not been able to tell, I developed an active hatred for those things.

First, I don’t like harsh fluorescent light.  Second, it developed that those things were not really any better for the environment than Edison’s brainchild – they just traded one set of environmental concerns for another.

There is actually one still in service here, in a seldom-used room in the basement.  It irritates me tremendously every time I flip the switch to turn it on.  But that occasion is so infrequent that I have forgotten all about it when I am anywhere near a light bulb aisle at my friendly neighborhood superstore.

Anyway, nobody was happier than me when the LED bulb began to reach commercial viability.  We spent what seemed like waaaay too much money on one in our house early on and have never looked back.  Bit by bit they have advanced to the point where there is a viable LED choice for almost every lighting need in our casa.

But not my mother.  She continued to maintain a stock of incandescent bulbs in her utility room.  That was simply her way – there was no sense in ever running out of something.  And her beloved 100 watters were always well represented.

When it was announced that higher wattage incandescents were going away, she did what any good senior citizen would do – she went on a light bulb binge and bought dozens of them.  They did in fact prove to be a lifetime supply, one that my sister and I inherited after she was no longer able to live at home.

I am not a Luddite (not fully, anyhow) and see the many benefits of modern LED lighting.  Yes, they are silly-expensive up front, but they pay for themselves by their long lives and minimal electric consumption.  I am, however, left with a box of incandescent bulbs.  And, not being inclined to start The JPC Museum Of Obsolete Lighting (because there are so many other obsolete things I would first start a museum for) it seems wasteful to throw them away.  So, they continue to be used in certain spots that are not terribly difficult to access.  And the outdoor post-top light is one of these.

Old-school 100 watt incandescents don’t seem to care how hot or cold the weather is, and burn brightly and reliably until they (suddenly, and with an often dramatic “pop”) don’t.  But now I am going to have to come up with a new solution.

In truth, I look forward to the energy savings (and the rarely achieved environmental smugness that comes along with it).  But for now the nighttime outdoors in the environs of our front yard will continue for the near future to be lighted by the last old, reliable, 100 watt bulb I expect I will ever own. One that has the added benefit of making me smile and think of my Mom.

27 thoughts on “A Full 100 Watts

  1. That is a truly unique link to your mother!

    My wife has periodically been expressing her desire to hoard, no, invest in a few cases of incandescent bulbs similar to what your mom did. The Mrs. does not like LED bulbs. I see her point as we have not realized any type of great service with LED bulbs regardless of brand. However, with our having three vehicles with eight cylinder engines that love fuel, we are using LEDs to help with the environment. Or something like that because those bulbs still go in the trash when they crap out.

    Edison-Mazda? Mazda? That’s a new one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that Mazda name is an oddity on light bulbs, but it turns out GE trademarked the name in 1909, named after some kind of zoroastrian god associated with light. They kept the trademark active until not terribly long ago. I had seen the name associated with certain kinds of industrial lighting, but it still seems odd that it has nothing to do with the car brand.

      We started using LEDs in places where 1) the light burns a lot or 2) the bulb is a PITA to change. We are slowly moving that direction and they have worked well when we find the right color temperature so that the light they put out is right.

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  2. We can still buy 100 watt incandescent bulbs here, the rough service variety for farm use. I just replaced the bulb in our garage with a 100 watt LED equivalent, and to my surprise it already was a 100 watt. So no improvement there, but I’ll save a little electricity.

    My own mother was a big fan of 50/100/150 watt trilights, which were used exclusively in our living room. Our lamp shades were replaced periodically as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will confess to having a few of those 3 ways, but I think ours are 30/70/100. Yes, my mother used to buy some of those big 3 ways too.

      It just now occurs to me that one of these days the bulb in the old trouble light in my garage is going to burn out (prematurely if I drop it – funny how that cage around the bulb doesn’t really protect the innards of the bulb from the shock of impact – and the “rough service” versions seemed just as fragile as the normal ones). Crud – maybe I should have kept that last hundred watter and not put it in the outdoor light. Oh well.

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  3. I was looking for a reference to the song, “Glow Worm” when I saw the reference to Mazda lighting. The Mills Brothers did that song in 1952 and it was a great hit. Some research tells me it was from from Paul Lincke’s 1902 operetta Lysistrata, which I never knew before. What I do know is that my Dad played the Mills Brothers every Sunday, or so it seemed, and while at the time I expressed my dislike, I actually developed a liking for their music. The line in the song goes, “You’ve Got a Cute Vest Pocket Mazda, which you can make both slow and fazda.” (I always thought it said ‘slow and faster’).

    There’s nothing like a cute girl wearing a hat of light bulbs in a ad to get one’s attention.

    Reference https://eclecticvo.com/2016/03/20/you-got-a-cute-vest-pocket-mazda/ on my research.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow – I am familiar with the Glow Worm song and with the Mills Brothers, but I am sure that the Mazda reference went over my head when I last listened to it and by now I had forgotten all about it. A brilliant association – You, sir, win the JPC obscure trivia award for the day!

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    • “When you’ve gotta glow, you’ve gotta glow” is one of the great song-puns of all time. I had to look it up to confirm, but Johnny Mercer re-wrote and added some lyrics for that Mills Brothers rendition, so I suspect the Mazda reference is one of his.

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  4. My mom always used 100 watt bulbs when I was a kid. Then I got my first place as an adult and noticed all the stickers on all the lamps and overhead lights saying 60 watts max. Did the whole world change on me? I dutifully obeyed and in time when I went home to Mom’s I found her house to be far too brightly lit.

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    • You are right about those warnings – I grew up assuming that you could stick the brightest bulb that would screw in for any fixture, anywhere. All powered with the thinnest gauge wire electrical cords that they could get away with. I suspect that it was the lawyers who forced some of those changes. The lamps all have a 60 watt max and have a cord the thickness of a pencil.

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  5. Just like your experience JP, my mom always insisted on having a ready stash of incandescent bulbs and I have at last a couple 40W stove bulbs because it went out one time and we had to look all over to find another one, so stockpile them thereafter. I still have 3-way incandescents for some table lamps as we had extra lights to avoid running out as they were often hard to find. I was amazed when I heard last week that GE will no longer make bulbs, but at least the new company will still use the GE name. When we first moved to the States we had a Detroit Edison store that was about a mile away from us. Detroit Edison used to be our electric provider, but they merged with the gas company and it is now known as DTE, but, back in the day if you went to the Detroit Edison store, you could take all your used bulbs, any size, and exchange them for new bulbs. No excuse to be left in the dark … as to bulbs anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, evidently … smart P.R. for them. I follow a site on Facebook called “Things that are no longer Downriver” and most posts are about restaurants, stores or events that are no longer around, but every so often people dredge up the topic of free light bulbs at the Edison store. Customers brought in bags of bulbs and there was no limit to what you could exchange. We didn’t make a special trip and just three people in our household, so didn’t use a lot of bulbs. The new LED bulbs are great – some shed so much light that you could perform surgery in the room.

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    • When my dad moved to the Lansing area his apartment was in Consumers Power territory, but the landlord lived farther east and had Detroit Edison. My Dad could get lightbulbs for free, but had to wait for the landlord to go swap them out.

      I don’t know how long it lasted but in the 1930s when utilities were rural electrification was new, farm families could get big appliances like ovens for almost nothing. The utilities were willing to subsidize this to get customers.

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      • That’s great on both counts Dan and how much things have changed now. We were told there was a big reserve of natural gas due to a mild Winter so we’d get a nice rebate on our next bill – a few days later, the news headline said “DTE to raise rates before you turn your A/C on!” The comments below the story were “but you just said ….”

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  6. I use LED bulbs now and although I don’t find them as bright, I have to admit it’s easier not to have to change them as often, esp. in those hard to reach areas. I did buy and hoard about a dozen of the old 100’s before they disappeared though as I consider the light superior, but I guess it’s whatever you get used to. Enjoyed the old photos!

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      • I know what you mean – last summer when I did the kitchen reno, I special ordered $15 bulbs at a lighting store to get a better LED to put into the existing light fixtures – the glass was really thick – and it did make a big difference, but ordinarily I just buy the cheaper ones at the hardware store. I hate change – one of these days I’m going to have to tackle the block editor…..

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      • I haven’t posted for a few weeks, but I see that I seem still to be on the old editor???? Have you been automatically upgraded or maybe they haven’t done everyone yet?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I admire how you can make an every day item like light bulbs or phones so interesting through your writing. I now know a lot more about light bulbs than I did before reading this post !

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ditto Inkplume, the ability to find deeper meanings in the ordinary is an admirable skill–there is even a fancy college word for it: “Semiotics”.

    For the record, I only use incandescent bulbs in our house, except for an area in the finished basement which uses LEDs. Incandescent bulbs produce a warm, natural, non-flickering glow. Try moving your hand or an object rapidly in front of some of the new-type bulbs and you can see the flicker.

    Instead of 100W bulbs, my grandmother only used 40W or lower, I think because she had a fear of fire. This gave her 1920s house which had stained glass windows, antique mahogany furniture, and dark, paneled doors a somewhat gloomy, cavelike feeling a night. Try doing your math homework by a table lamp with a 15W bulb in it!

    I’m a little better than Grandma; I use 40W-75W . . . 100W seems too bright except by the bedside for reading. People’s faces (especially older people’s) look more attractive in lower light. I also like the teardrop bulbs used in chandeliers and sconces.

    Have you seen Remy’s parody song on this subject?

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    • Oooooh, so I’m seminotic? I’ve been called much worse. 🙂

      I just saw the Remy song – hilarious. I had not thought about the implications for the classic Easy-Bake Oven. Soon little children will no longer be able to burn themselves while making horrible desserts. We’re going soft!

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  9. We have several fairly new lamps that were apparently designed for three-way bulbs—which we always had in my childhood—but now offer only a single turn. I don’t get it, but it’s not something I fret about.
    My mother would also enter the room and say “Why are you sitting in the dark?,” which meant turn up the three-way bulb to the max.
    PITA? It took me a nanosecond to realize why you were capitalizing and inserting a reference to Middle Eastern bread at that point in your post.
    I too cringe at the thought that the mysterious block editor will soon be foisted upon us. There’s a halfway fix called Classic Block, but when those 3 second videos whip the tiny arrows around, I am reminded how little I’ve advanced in techiedom. Alas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We still have a few 3-way bulbs. Which makes me wonder if anyone ever made regular use of all 3 wattages, or if everyone is like us and always turns to one favorite setting and never uses any of the others.

      I have not gotten even as far you in investigating the block editor. It’s going to be a bad day when I am finally forced into it.

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