It's birthday cake would have shone brighter but never,
Quietly, without fanfare, lonesome in it's own pale gloom,
the world famous backstage light globe at the Palace Theatre
had it's 60th birthday Saturday.
Sixty solid years of continuous burning- a phenomenon that
was being featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not when it had
been burning a mere 30 or so years.
And now, on this Sunday morning, it is 24 hours deep into
its 61st year.
And perhaps into eternity...
* * *
DAY BULB INSTALLED RECALLED
Kingdoms fall, governments change hands, Liz Taylor takes
husbands. But the pathetic little light globe remains unchanged.
What history it has survived!
It all began on Sept 21, 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt was
President and everyone was singing, "I used to be affraid
of the dark, now I'm affraid to go home at all."
That's when a young stage electrician named Barry Burke
illuminated the dark around the interior of the stage door at
the old Byers Opera House, which today is Fort Worth's Palace
The tiny light bulb that Burke screwed into a rafter socket
is the same one that glows feebly today, an unexplained electrical
freak that has been slightly dubbed the theatre's "Eternal
Through a numberless parade of theatre managers -- Harry
Gould. Charles Carden.. Howard Yarbrough... the present manager
R. L. Wondall-- the first task each day is to go through the
auditorium exit curtains, and glance up at the three-story-high
ceiling to be sure the spunky, pale glow is still there.
They've never been disapointed yet.
The day the light goes out-- if indeed, it ever does--
there will be a worldwide story on the news wires.
SUPRISE DAILY FOR 60 YEARS
Showman around the nation, when introduced to interstate's
Frank Weatherlord, invariably say, "Oh, yes. Fort Worth;
where the stage light still burns."
There is no explanation for the long life of the ancient
carbon light, as I have stated through the years on birthdays
of less magnitude than 60.
Electrical experts have ventured that once the light does
go out, it would be too tired ever to be turned on again.
That's why Texas Electric Service Company installed a special
feeder circuit to the bulb and wired the lever tight so it couldn't
be accidentally tripped.
The special circuit allows the light to remain burning
even if the rest of the theatre had a power disruption.
And so, modern more expenssive bulbs continue to fizzle
out with expected regularity in homes and businesses all over
the world, while the Palace's little globe just smirks glowingly.
It nestles beside an empty socket in the twin bulb fixture.
The companion bulb burned out when horseless carriages were rolling
by outside the Byers Opera House. It wasn't replaced.
The little bulb lighted Lillian Russell's way to her
* * *
dressing room, just as it lighted the way for Jimmy Stewart,
the most recent star to be on the Palace stage.
TITLES SOMETIMES MISLEADING
It was glowing while the Wright Brothers still were experimenting.
I've always thought it must have twinkled in glee in the mid
1930s when the Palace was showing Ronals Coleman's "The
Light That Failed", or this year when the movie was Doris
Day's, "Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?"
And what of Barry Burke, the young electrician whoput in
the bulb 60 years ago Saturday?
Well, Barry always had the erie feeling that he would die
when the light died.
He knew it was a foolish thought, but as the years went
on it became a thought he couldn't shake.
And it was, indeed, unfounded. Barry died nearly five years
ago. The light burns on.