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Merry Christmas! ... and an anecdote for you - RF Cafe Forums

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Kirt Blattenberger
 Post subject: Merry Christmas! ... and an anecdote for you
Posted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:20 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2003 2:02 pm
Posts: 878
Location: Erie, PA
While watching A Christmas Story tonight (for about the umpteenth time), memories of my family's Christmas came to mind and it made me think about how much of a hazard those old electric lights were. The strings of lights we - and most people in the 1960s - used were the kind that had the candelabra size lamp bases. They were all wired in parallel so that each bulb received the full 120 VAC. Unlike today's 2-wire lamp cords, those of the day did not have polarized plugs to ensure that the outside contact of the screw base would be connected to the neutral wire and the hot wire would contact in the bottom center. That meant there was a 50-50 chance that while you were unscrewing a burnt-out bulb to replace it while the string was still plugged in, you could easily get a shock.
Add to that comforting thought that a popular Christmas tree light adornment back then was a pressed aluminum reflector that was installed by passing the bulb base through it before screwing the bulb into the socket. If that baby happened to come into contact with a bulb base when the plug was inserted into the wall socket the wrong way, presto, a big surface full of 120 V! Fortunately, they were - at least when new - covered with a thin transparent colored film.
Add to that the fact that those buggers (the bulbs) got high enough in temperature to burn the skin off the end of your fingers. Combine that with a tree that had been cut back in September and by then had had no water osmosisizing[sic] through its veins for nearly four months. Smokey the Bear had nightmares over that scenario, I'm sure.
A coup de gras was the heavy metallic tinsel icicles that we'd hang from the tree boughs. That stuff wasn't like the lightweight metalized plastic stuff in use today. It must have had lead in it. So not only was it yet another opportunity for an electrical shock if it found its way onto a hot bulb socket, but possibly also could have caused lead poisoning to boot (of course, you'd have to eat it, which I don't recall doing).
Just like standing on our heads in the back seat of the family car or sleeping up on the package shelf in the back while Mom & Dad chatted away up front, you have to wonder how enough of us survived the natural selection process to proliferate the species.
Oh, one thing I'd like to ask. Did anyone else's parents insist that it was Santa Claus's job to decorate the Christmas Tree, and that the mortals were to merely erect the tree in a stand a couple days prior, then hang the lights on Christmas Eve? Part of our Christmas morn treat was a fully decorated tree. My father hearkened from the Buffalo, NY area. Maybe it was a regional thing. Were we alone?

- Kirt Blattenberger :smt024
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Posted  11/12/2012
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