Friday, October 26, 2012

Oh Where Oh Where Should My Red Light Be...

Warning lights in the 1960s weren’t the high efficiency LED’s or strobes we see today.  A single bulb “Vitalite” was the norm.  Back then, West Corners had a whopping two traffic lights, both of which were relatively new.  Heavy traffic for emergency responders was not a major problem. 

Mom was not a fan of lights on the roof of cars.  She felt they detracted from the looks.  Further, she didn’t even like them on the front dash, arguing they obstructed her vision. 
None of this was much of an issue when Dad was a firefighter, lieutenant, or captain.  We lived less than a mile from the station; one stop sign and two turns away.  When he made Assistant Chief and had to start responding to the scene, things changed. 
A mobile radio—with tubes—was installed in the car.  A miniature manual siren was bolted under the hood.  Neither of these was a problem; it was the red light that was in dispute.   Locating it on the roof was out of the question and her objections regarding the front dash were continued.  The light ended up on the rear deck in the back window of the old Dodge. 
This location was one step above useless.  When parked at a scene, it could be useful, but did little to expedite actually getting there. 
All this changed one fortuitous day when Mom and I happened to be in the car with Dad when a fire call was received.  Dad called out as responding and activated the light on the rear deck and the dinky siren, and attempted to weave his way through what passed as traffic in our little town.   In the front seat, Mom was astounded at the difficulty he experienced. 
“Why won’t these people pull over?” She asked, incredulous over this lack of cooperation, her hands braced o the dash board against the bobbing and weaving of the car.
“Because nobody can see the damn light,” Dad said.  Mom knew better than to continue the conversation while we were enroute to the call.  Meanwhile, I was having a blast in the back seat; seeing the flashes of red bounce in and out of the car and looking for smoke in the sky in front of us. 
Mom and I watched from the car while the incident, nothing serious if memory serves, was handled.  When the fire apparatus was repacked and returning to the station, Dad got back in the car.  Mom had apparently been giving some thought to the ride we took to the scene and her previous position on the location of the red light in the car.  Before Dad had barely settled in to start the ignition, she revealed her decision.
“Rich, put the damn light wherever you want it.” 
Dad didn’t say anything, but before the day was out, the center of the roof was graced with the old single bulb red light. 

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