Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Insulator Accumulators

I have very vivid childhood memories of my grandparent's house. Then again, who wouldn't have vivid memories of a house that had an elevator and a greenhouse? There were some other oddities in my grandparent's home including an old beauty salon hair dryer chair (yep, towards the end of her life my grandfather would do my grandmother's hair every day), a few candlestick phones, an organ because my grandmother used to teach piano lessons, and there were always jellybeans in a dish in the kitchen - I would only steal the pinks ones. 

The greenhouse was filled with orchids which my grandfather tediously cared for and these were among his most prized possessions. Other than his glass insulator collection that is - 

The above article was written back in 1966 (I can guess based on my dad's age). I'm not sure where it was published, but my brother came across it a few years ago "in a pile of junk" and was smart enough to scan a copy before it was lost forever. As the article implies, my grandfather Perry's collection sat in his office as President of Southwest Bank. While in 1966 he was up to 110 insulators, by the time he passed away in the early 90's that number was much higher. In fact, I think it was widely believe that my grandfather had the largest collection of glass insulators of anyone. 

My dad has vivid memories of how they came to possess so many insulators (spoiler alert - they stole them). Every summer, they would drive out to California to visit family and along the way, they would stop so my dad or his younger brother could pop out of the car to climb the telephone poles to retrieve these insulators. After getting caught a handful of times, my grandfather obtained an old telephone belt that either my father or his brother would wear as they scaled the pole. Luckily, that side of the Francis family averaged about 6 feet in height, so the ascent was never too terribly taxing on them. 

I'm lucky enough now to be in possession of a few dozen of these insulators. My family literally still has boxes of them, but hey they're heavy, so there are only so many I can bring myself to move around with me. 

These insulators come in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes. The sun and electric current that ran through them affected how they looked by the time my dad was taking them off the telegraph poles. Most of the insulators in our collection are purple, teal or amber. In researching the company names shown on the insulators, most of either Hemingray or Whitall. All were made in the US . 

I've honestly never conducted too much research on the insulators themselves before, because I always just appreciated them for what they were - unique remembrances of a man who I loved, but didn't know for very long. I was pleasantly surprised to find this identifier which I think will help me catalog the insulators I do have around my home, and then maybe I can move on to some of the other ones we still have. 

I'm so happy that my home will always include these glass tokens. Someday my children will get to know their grand-grandfather through these mementos and hopefully my dad will be around to tell them what it was like to scale all of those telegraph poles. 

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