LUCKY TO BE FIRED


| November/December 1979



Spencerport, New York 14559

I would like to tell of my experience as engineer to an eight horse Fairbanks Morse one cylinder horizontal engine that was driving a direct current dynamo which was the source of power for a motion picture show house in the village of Spencerport, New York from about 1914 to the middle 20s.

When the show house was first opened there was no municipal electric power in the village. Streets were lit by gas lights that got their gas from a gas house where it was generated from carbide. The wealthier citizens also had that form of illumination in their homes. We were still using oil lamps.

The first electric lights in the village were in the theater and when they started up the generator the lights on the front would come on over the door and on a five-light post candelabra with milk white globes that were the wonderment of all who viewed them, especially the kids, who would sit and gaze spellbound at them.

My greatest ambition was to run the big Fairbanks-Morse engine, so I haunted the engine room to make friends with the engineer, Bernard Penders. He used to leave me to watch the engine so that he might go up out of the cellar to watch the feature movie. He taught me how to handle the engine so I learned the ropes. There was no blast in the system so when the projectionest was about to fire up the arc he would call on a phone to the engine room so the engineer would speed up the engine. If he failed to do that the engine would stall under the load and by the same token the engineer would have to be on his toes when the projectionest would cut the arc. If he failed that, the house lights would burn out.

Well, it came about that the projectionest quit and Bernard was promoted to that job and he put in a word for me as engineer. As you can imagine I was in seventh heaven, and a very important person among my peers.