Mr. Fradette's Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscence)

georget98

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Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscence)

Maybe it's in my genes. They say my first words were "light on, light off."

On the corner near where I lived was Fradette's variety store. They had the usual assortment for the time, newspapers, candy, cigarettes, canned food, spools of thread, and of course flashlight batteries.

One day when I was around 5, probably 1951, my flashlight wouldn't light. I KNEW it wasn't the batteries so there must have been something terribly wrong. My father handed me a quarter, and told me to take the flashlight to Fradette's.

I handed it to Mrs. Fradette. She flicked the switch, I suppose she was looking for that momentary deep orange flash that even the deadest of the dead batteries could produce. Seeing nothing she shook her head and went to the back room and got Mr. Fradette.

He tried the switch just to be sure, then went straight to work. He unscrewed the back end and shook the batteries out on the counter.

On the wall behind the counter was a metal cabinet that said Ray-O-Vac on the door. On one side was the tester. It was a two sided affair. One side had a "U" shaped vertically mounted metal strap with a flashlight bulb screwed in the top end, the other side was the same but with a D cell battery and a hole where the bulb went.

He put the batteries, one at a time, into the side of the tester with the bulb. Each time, the bulb glowed brightly. He looked at me and said, "The batteries are fine, so let's check the bulb."

He spread a soft cloth on the counter and proceeded to unscrew the other end — the part I had never opened because it was for grown-ups!

I watched in fascination as he took the end off with its cone shaped reflector. He yanked off a metal ring from the end of the cone, and pulled out the bulb. I knew it was the bulb because I had seen it through the glass, but I had never seen it in its entirety before.

He took the bulb and pressed it down through the hole in the side of the tester with the battery. Nothing happened. He faced me seriously and said, "the bulb is burned out, it needs to be replaced." I didn't know what "replaced" meant, but it sounded pretty serious and I started to worry we might have to send it away somewhere, like film, to have it "replaced."

As I was just starting to wonder how long it would be before the bulb came back, Mr Fradette opened the Ray-O-Vac cabinet door. I stood up on my toes to try to see everything inside. There were mostly little cardboard boxes with numbers on the side. He selected one and opened it on the counter. It had a piece of cardboard inside with holes, and what seemed like hundreds of shiny new bulbs all lined up like eggs in a carton.

He took a bulb and first of all put it in the tester, it glowed brightly. He put it back in the cone thing, snapped on the ring, and put the flashlight back together. It worked!

But then he shook the light and said "Uh, oh. See how it flickers when I shake it?" With a sense of impending doom I somehow nodded my head. "The contacts are corroded."

As I started to feel faint with visions of my beloved flashlight once again in the back of a truck headed for Rochester, he started to unscrew BOTH ENDS!!!

Mr. Fradette then looked around in the cabinet again and took out a little black square of what looked like stiff cloth. "Emery cloth," he replied to my puzzled look. In turn, he rubbed the emery cloth on the spring in the battery cover, the ring around the bulb, the tip of the bulb, and the spring metal strip from the switch which he then bent just a tiny bit inwards. Out of nowhere, he produced a jar of Vaseline and put just a tiny bit on the case threads. Then he screwed the ends back on.

Taking the cloth off the counter, he wiped off the excess Vaseline and then picked up a another clean cloth and polished the lens.

He turned it on and shook it. This time the light was bright and steady. Then he put the flashlight down on the counter and said, "Good as new. That will be 18 cents."

I rushed home, gave my father the good news, the 7 cents change, and settled down to wait for dark.

Now I'm 56 and my life is full of complexity — computers, tax returns, HDL & LDL. It seems so nice that so simple a device like a flashlight can still give me feelings of wonder, and comfort from a time, oh so long ago.
 

sotto

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscence)

Hey, when I was an 8 year old my dad would give me a quarter to go buy him a pack of Camels from Jerry's grocery store. No pain, no strain, no ID, no hassles. I got the Camels without a hitch every time.

And no I didn't sneak one for myself.
 

jtivat

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscence)

Great story!
smile.gif
 

BugLightGeek

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscence)

What?
How come you didn't use the change to buy a hamburger, chocolate shake and a piece of candy too?
smile.gif
 

EMPOWERTORCH

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscence)

I have been facinated with lights all my life. Mum and Dad told me my first toy was an old bulbholder attached to a piece of flex!
My first torch was one I found in amongst a collection of relics in a friend's farmhouse attic. Previous to that I used to get told off for taking dad's torch to bits! I remember my Dad showing me the internal contents of a bulb... he carefully broke the pearl glass off to show me the "magic wire" inside the bulb. I used to think that the wire was truly "magic"!
That "found torch" was something I kept for many years through my teens. I remember it well. It was metallic green, probably made from aluminium, and ran off 2 C cells. The front end had siezed up, but the bulb worked fine for all the years I had it (most of the Seventies). It had a cracked glass lens and the head was the same diameter as the rest of the torch. Though it wasn't anything remarkable, it outlasted all the modern plastic torches that my Dad kept buying. I used to read in bed at night with it, comics mainly when I was young, then later sci-fi!
During the 70's we also had the Energy crisis which prompted numerous power outages. I was assigned to look after the oil lamp that lived in the top of the cheffenir (an ornate kind of sideboard with lots of little cupboards and mirrors). During daylight I had to make sure it was suitably refuelled and that its wick was properly trimmed, and my little green torch and a box of matches were always kept in one of the cheffenir's drawers where it could be found at a moments notice and the oil lamp lit in the event of a power outage!
In 1980 the family moved house and I never saw the old green torch again. I have some happy memories of those times!
Maybe that little green torch was the seed that caused me eventually to become a serious torchaholic and join this forum some 22 years later!
 

melpen

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscen

<font color="purple">Wonderful story. Weren't those old variety stores the best? The penny candy and the comic books? A cold bottle of coke in a heavy green bottle? Ah yes, flashlights were invaluable in the 50's for reading comic books late at night in bed under the covers and later, in the 60's, we moved onto Playboy when Mom and Pop went to sleep.

On a deeper level, it makes sense so many people are fascinated by flashlights. We are made of light energy. Light forced to matter, living here on Earth. One day, we will return to the light from whence we came. Flashlights will seem so very small by comparison, but they are miracles in their own way, nevertheless. </font>
 

jayflash

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscen

Thanks for the ride back into the 50's georget98 - nice story.

Welcome melpen. Good observation on the human system. Apparently research has shown that much communication occurs within our bodies, cells, molecules, etc. and between plants, other animals, birds etc. that utilizes photons as the transmission medium. We really are, perhaps, beings of light.
 

Bill.H

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscen

I don't remember ever seeing one of those Ray-O-Vac cabinets, but can you imagine what you'd get today for one in B/S/T that was in good condition! /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif
I do remember a time when all batteries were D cells (which would ALWAYS leak!) and that Ray-O-Vac vs. Eveready was like Dodgers (the real Dodgers, from Brooklyn) vs. Yankees or Ford vs. Chevy - almost a religious belief.

Coke in those old bottles just plain tasted better. I really miss those. And the nickel machines that dispensed them.
 

Clifton Arnold

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscen

It was just last winter I had to work on one of those coke machines. It was a VENDO and it was last made in 1957 the year I was born. It was a fully restored machine and I put a new compressor in for them. The machine was valued at 5000 to 8000 dollars so you can bet I was very careful doing it.
 

illumiGeek

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscen

So if you figure in inflation, would that 18 cent bulb cost more today than an EveLED?

Great story. Thanks.

Aloha, iG
 

unclearty

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscen

I, too, grew up in the 50's. When I was young, my Dad "tinkered" with TV's...meaning...he replaced tubes. I learned to solder with my Dad...ahhh..the smell of rosin flux solder on a soldering gun tip.....My best memory of flashlights is...when we would go, on Sat mornings, to the TV supply place to pick up new tubes, I would stand on this little pedastal and drool over this big, gray EVEREADY cabinet. As in the first story..a tester on the side...cool red logo..and filled with replacement parts..oh man...if I could have just had 3 seconds to fill my pockets... One Sat, my Dad bought me one of those old HUGE 1.5 volt batteries with hte 2 screw terminals on top. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The next 2 weeks were spent in my "workshop"..a space under my Dad's workbench. Well..he realized I was limited, so he bought me a second battery. I learned about series..and parallel circuits. Next came dismanteling the combo TV/phonograph...adding speakers to anything...putting light wherever I could, etc. That was my first voyage into the world of flashlights and electronics....and now look...45 years later and I'm STILL playing with flashlights!! I tried to get my daughter interested, but alas....she hasn't seen the light.
 

Burgess

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Thank you to georget98, and everyone else
for these happy memories, revisited ! :wave:


I well remember the flat, cardboard, yellow & blue Ray-O-Vac bulb display box. :kiss:


Had 'em at the drug stores, and hardware stores.


If you needed a new PR-2 bulb, fer' instance, you couldn't simply select a package of 'em from the shelf.


The clerk would bring out "the box", which was LOADED with perhaps 12 rows by 12 columns of all the popular-sizes of miniature (flashlight) lightbulbs.


Some of the bulbs were rather large, and i'd wonder about
what kinda' flashlights were THOSE for ? ! :thinking:


I still think about this. Quite often, too.

And i am currently 54 years old. (born in 1953)



I can also remember when Eveready D-cells were sold
"One-at-a-time" from a clear plastic "S"-shaped dispenser, right at the checkout counter.
Understand, this dispenser has no moving parts. Gravity-fed.
Just let you take out cells from the bottom section.
And it was loaded (by the store clerk) from the top.


And Eveready D-cells sold for 20 cents apiece. :grin2:

That's for the Silver, 9-Lives Cat, carbon-zinc cells.


This is when i was perhaps 6 years old.


When i was about 8, the price jumped to 30 cents each !


I remember being "amazed" that the price of something could actually CHANGE !


"Hey, they useta' be twenty cents, and now they're thirty cents !

That's not fair !"


Ah, the innocence of youth. :)


_
 

PhotonWrangler

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Thanks for the nice memories, guys. A fun read and it really took me back to that sense of wonder and awe when I saw those little cardboard cartons filled with little magical glass bulbs full of the promise of light. :)

I have similar memories of the tv repairman when he'd come in and open his folding box filled with boxes of tubes... wow. It was like a travelling candy store filled with magical glowing bottles.
 
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ltiu

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Curious Q from someone born much later.

Were PR2 bulbs always PR2 bulbs? Are PR2 bulbs today the same or different from the PR2 bulbs of the 50's? The way these are constructed and the metal filament inside?
 

Illum

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Re: Mr. Fradette\'s Ray-O-Vac Cabinet (a reminiscence)

EDITED, OFF TOPIC

My grandpa give me a "lighter" when I was around 5, its those swivel head flashlight promotional keychains.....it found it inside a box of cigs with the individually packaged cigs....thats the only thing I remember getting out of it:)
 
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AFAustin

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Great story, georget98, beautifully told. I'm about your age, and have some of the some longings for a simpler time, the personal side of a "business" transaction, the wonder of a small boy....

Thanks
 

Burgess

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Thank you to georget98, for pointing me to this thread. :wave:


Glad that i could add a few lines of my own, and resurrect it !


Gives a few more CPF'ers a chance to view this.



One more thing . . . .


Hey, i remember when Ray-O-Vac D-cells (and perhaps C-cells, also)
introduced their new "gimmick" called the SafetyStrip.


About 1960, they added a narrow protective "band" across the positive terminal.
It was dark blue in color, if i recall correctly.


It was a non-conductive material, and served as a way
to "ensure" that the cell was brand-new, and had never been used.


You had to tear it off (rip it off), in order to use the cell.


Although, certainly, it was possible to defeat it. :)


Even *i*, as a clever lad, about 7-years-old, quickly saw
that a small piece of aluminum foil did the trick. :devil:


Keep in mind, folks, that many D-cells were often sold individually.


Right outta' the dispenser, rather than the Bubble-Packs of today.


Ah, the memories of my youth. :whistle:



Oh, and the specs for PR-2 bulbs are still unchanged since post-WW2.


2.38 volts (design voltage)

500 milliamps (current draw)

0.80 mean spherical candlepower (abbreviated as m.s.cp)

30 hours average life

* edit begin* Oops, sorry, that should be 15 hours, not 30 hours !
* edit end *


_
 
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