Monday, June 4, 2012

Lighting the way

So when this posts, I probably won't be able to comment. I'll be in Lugano, Switzerland. Whoop! And I have no idea whether or not I'll have Internet. I don't plan to take my laptop. Might take the phone but again, cost of using the phone overseas might be an issue. Anyway, onto my post for the day.

Thought I'd talk about lanterns. It's not like the cowboy of the old west could go to their local Walmart for a flashlight. They either traveled by the light the moon or carried a kerosene lantern.

When I was a girl scout, we still used kerosene lanterns when camping. We had posts near the outhouse for placing the lamp on so we'd have light to do our business. As with any gadget, these lanterns required a small amount of maitenance. To clean the glass globe, we wiped off the soot with wadded up newspaper. No cleaner, just the paper. We also had to trim the wick and of course, sometimes replace the wick.

The one pictured here came from the railroads in San Antonio where my father worked as a boy in the 1940s. Hard to see, but it has a red globe.

This little bit of skill came in handy when I wrote Eliza's Brass Token. While she's not dealing with a lantern, she's having to clean the chandelier. This would have been a normal occurance for women back then. Whether they had chandeliers or kerosene lanterns, they had to maintain them on a regular basis. Here's an excerpt:

Eliza pulled the chair under the kerosene chandelier that hung in her front room. She’d already cleaned the one in her bedroom. The lanterns hung low, just a few inches above her head, but high enough that she couldn’t reach them without benefit of a chair. Climbing on top of the chair was difficult with her sore knee, but she managed. Turning the knob that tilted the glass globe forward, she reached up and gently removed the globe. She climbed down long enough to set it aside, so she could climb back on the chair to trim the wick. With a pair of scissors in hand, she cut away the charred ends of the wick. She had to step off the chair once more to clean the globe. Using an old newspaper, she wiped the glass clean of the dark soot. Climbing back on the chair, she let the dirty newspaper drift to the ground as she positioned the globe in place.

“What in tarnations do you think you’re doing, woman?”

The glass fell from her hands and shattered into a million sharp pieces.

“Now look what you’ve done.” She teetered precariously on the chair before catching her balance.

“Me? You’re the one who’s supposed to be in bed. What were you doing, anyway?”

“I was cleaning the chandelier fixtures. I do it every Monday morning before I go to school. This Monday is no exception. They were even filthier than usual since you’ve kept me in bed for almost a week.”

“And if you had any sense, that’s where you’d be now.”

“I am not a child, Mr. Reeves. My injuries are all but healed, and most of the bruises have faded. I’ve been well enough to get out of bed for three days now, but you’ve kept me grounded to my room.”

He grinned sheepishly. “And I had to sit on you every step of the way. Was I as bad of a patient as you?”

She grinned back. “Worse.”


Meg said...

Thank goodness for electricity! LOL ;-)

mesadallas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mesadallas said...

I think at times we all take our electric lives for granted. When I lived in the Seattle area we once had a winter wind storm that knocked out power for over a week. The first day was rather fun but after eight days of wearing coats in an ice-cold house, heating water on the bbq, sponge baths, all seven family members sleeping in the living room in front of the fireplace, and not much to do after dark except listen to a radio, the novelty soon wore off. My boys on the other hand thought it was wonderful. They roasted hot dogs in the fireplace, played hide-and seek in the dark with flashlights, carried lit candles around the house, made homemade torches by winding toilet paper around sticks, (didn't last long)not showering, and missing nine straight days of school. When the power finally came back on the first thing I saw on the television was a news report advising parents of how to help their children deal with the emotional trauma they may be undergoing from being without power.

Alison E. Bruce said...

Trauma... right.

Reading the excerpt, I was struck by how annoyed Eliza must have been to have her globe broken. I remember when my mother broke the glass of her pewter lantern - first day she had it. It wasn't cheap to replace and I imagine it wouldn't have been any cheaper (relative to the cost of living) for Eliza.

Lyn Horner said...

Good to know how they used old newspapers to clean lanterns, chandeliers, etc. That info could come in handy.

Alison, I once had a hand painted globe broken by movers. Was I mad? You better believe it.

Paty Jager said...

Fun excerpt and interesting topic!

Jacquie Rogers said...

Lanterns. Ahem. Well, I live in Seattle and when our power goes out, as mesadallas mentioned, we're in for the long haul. We have several kerosine lanterns cleaned and ready to go. :) And candles--lots of 'em. One thing I figured out is the value of mirrors and white walls. A lantern can do a fairly decent job of lighting a room if the mirrors are placed correctly and the light can reflect in several directions, and off the wall.

Yes, the kids have a ball. Don't quite understand the trauma bit. Trauma for parents, that's for sure. LOL.