Hanging Lights

Electricians Wayne and Charles hang lights, 1975. I am glad I shot these photos.

For many years my Dad, Raymond Wagoner, Sr., and his business, Wagoner Electric Company, would hang the downtown Christmas decorations for the City of Reidsville, North Carolina. Imagine long strings of lights on gold and silver tinsel that were strung from the street lights back and forth across Scales Street. Giant red bells with lights in them hung from the strands over the middle of the road.

Now for me, this was a major event in my calendar of cool things. On the big day I would wait with as little patience as one can imagine to get out of school and go downtown. I would get to help in any way that I was able, depending on my age at the time. When I was very young, that meant tagging along when my father went for coffee, but in time I was handing lights or tools up to the men on the ladders. By the time I got to high school I would work on the ladder myself, which proved to to good training for my career.

The other part of the job that was great fun and seemed at the time to carry a great deal of importance happened a week or two before the light hanging day. We would go up into a warehouse space that was over Davis Pharmacy to test all of the bulbs, and replace the ones that were burned out. OK, I know it does not sound like much, but trust me, it was big fun. See, it involved getting to bust the old light bulbs! Oh, and when you changed a bulb, if you got the aluminum tinsel into the socket (by accident, of course) the bulb exploded – like I said, big fun.

Around 1970, the Chamber of Commerce made a major change in the Christmas lighting plan for Reidsville. They decided to go modern and replaced the old gold and silver strands that were strung across the street with these “things” that just hung on the poles of the street lights. Heresy I say!

I do not know how many years my father’s company did this job, it started before I came along and ended after I had moved away from Reidsville, but it always gave me a sense of pride that my father was asked to oversee what seemed like such an important task for my home town. These are moments that I cherish and will always remember.

One Response to “Hanging Lights”

  1. Mike

    Heresy, indeed!

    I miss the old school, fire-hazard lights. Seriously. One or two blazes around town were worth it—the lights were better.

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