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Thread: The Flashlight Boys' Christmas is now Online

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    Flashaholic georget98's Avatar
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    Aug 2002
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    Default The Flashlight Boys\' Christmas is now Online

    I let the domain expire, but here's the story.

    The Flashlight Boys' Christmas

    Before radio and television, books for children and teens were a popular form of entertainment. There were many series books with names like The Motion Picture Boys, The Motorcar Girls, The High School Chums, and The Radio Boys.

    Playing on these titles, I started using a signature line on the Candlepower Forums that made references to books in the non-existent Flashlight Boys series.

    One day I received an email from one of the other forum members asking where he could find these Flashlight Boys books. I responded that there were none, but it started me thinking, “Why not?”

    ©2003, George H. Trudeau, Illustrated by Gerree Trudeau


    I was looking around in the attic of my grandparents' house and found an old tin dispatch-box.

    Hoping to find that legendary share of Coca-Cola® stock I was disappointed to find an old journal of a now 6 generations ago relative, Hieronymus Trudeau.

    The journal chronicled the adventures of his boyhood chums Bob Parker and Frank Lancaster who in their town of Baldwin Heights became known as The Flashlight Boys.

    The events reported took place around the turn of the last century. Although a few houses in Baldwin Center had electricity, the Boston Edison Company had not laid their lines to the less populated Heights where these tellings took place.

    1. A Hard Taskmaster

    Bob Parker was once again trying to pour acid into a battery jar when they went around another turn and he almost spilled it again.

    “Maybe the ride will be smoother up ahead,” he thought, and started cutting out zinc electrodes again.

    “Hurry up back there, it's starting to dim! And where's that spare bulb? It looks like this one'll blow any second!”

    Bob put aside the copper, zinc, and sulphuric acid battery he was making and picked up his glass blowing pipe. He had never tried making his own electric light bulb before, but had to try. If the bulb burned out then they'd have to stop. As kind and jolly as Santa Claus seemed, he was a hard driving taskmaster on Christmas Eve when he was making his rounds.

    Bob's task seemed impossible. True he had all the raw materials, but to make enough light bulbs and batteries to light the way for all Santa's deliveries seemed beyond hope. And the fire in the glass furnace was so hot. He just wanted to sleep.

    “It's so hot,” he thought.

    He heard Santa shouting “Bob, wake up.” He tried to wake up but the furnace was hot and the acid kept spilling...

    “Come on, Bob, you're having a bad dream,” said Santa, who sounded remarkably like Bob's father.

    2. The Dim Star

    Bob opened his eyes and tried to remember. He was lying on the floor in front of the fireplace and his father was adding some wood to the fire.

    He had been trying to put an electric star on the top of the Christmas tree, but it wasn't very bright. Because the necessary wet cell batteries were so dangerous and messy he kept them in his basement workshop and ran long wires up the stairs to the tree in the living room.

    But the wires were too long and thin so a lot of power got lost in the transmission – and the bulb barely glowed at all. He considered bringing the cells upstairs, but if he spilled sulfuric acid on the living room rug – even a tiny drop – well, his mother worked hard to keep that carpet looking nice and he wasn't going to be the one to ruin it.

    A safer way was to make another couple of cells and connect them in series with the ones he was already using. Mr. Blanchard down at the telegraph office explained how to do it. At first Bob couldn't really believe how that could work. After all, connecting positive to negative was a short circuit and could ruin a cell in short order. But Mr. Blanchard explained how that would be true if it were the same cell, but it was not a short with two cells.

    It was when he was thinking about finding the materials to make more cells, and worrying about too many burning out his bulb, that he fell asleep and had his strange dream.

    He said good night to his parents, went upstairs to his room and got into bed. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and he'd take a walk over to Flemming's Hardware and get everything he needed.

    3. The Dry Cell

    Bright and early Bob finished his chores and walked over to his friend Steve Lambert's house. He told Steve about his problem, omitting the dream, and together they headed for Flemming's Hardware Store.

    All Bob really needed to make a couple more cells was some sheet copper for the positive electrode. As it turned out, that was the one thing Mr. Flemming was completely out of.

    Mr. Flemming asked, “What do you need copper for? I've got plenty of sheet iron and that's even stronger than copper.”

    Bob replied, “I'm making Voltaic cells and they use copper and zinc.”

    Mr. Flemming said, “Aren't those pretty dangerous with acid to spill? You should use a dry cell instead – they're much safer.”

    Somewhat puzzled, Bob asked, “What's a dry cell?”

    Mr. Flemming went into the back room and returned with a cylinder about 6 inches high and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. It had two screw-type brass terminals on top and said “Ever Ready, No. 6” on the side.

    Mr. Flemming explained, “These just came in last week so I'm not surprised you haven't heard of them. It's 1 1/2 volts, just about like your Voltaic cells, but it's got a paste inside and the top is sealed with pitch so it can't spill. The salesman told me it has a 'depolarizer' in it, too.”

    Of course Bob wondered what a depolarizer was, and Mr. Flemming continued.

    “You know how if you draw too much current, or even a little for a while, you get bubbles on the electrodes and your cell can't put out much power even though it's really OK? That means the cell is polarized. This dry cell has something in it that keeps it from getting polarized – at least not so much.

    “If you had a couple of these you could put them right under the tree and light that star up all night.”

    “Uh, that's certainly a modern day wonder, but what does it cost?” asked Steve.

    Mr. Flemming paused and thought for a moment “Well, I think they're 60 cents each, but...”

    Bob quickly cut in, “Thank you very much for showing it to us, Mr. Flemming, but I just have 20 cents for the copper. Maybe the plumbing shop across town has some.”

    Mr. Flemming then interrupted and continued, “Don't interrupt I was trying to explain, they're going to be 60 cents, but the salesman gave me a few as samples to try. I don't need 'em, but you could try them. Let me get another and you just take them along.”

    Clearly at a loss for words, all Bob and Frank could say was, “Thank you!”

    As Mr. Flemming returned with the other dry cell, he said, “Just be sure to let me know if they work OK. I 'm not going to stock them unless somebody thinks they're really worth that much money.”

    “You bet!” echoed both the boys, “and thank you so much, and Merry Christmas.”

    4. A Wonderful Idea

    They ran practically the entire way back to Bob's house, each carrying one of the precious dry cells.

    As they walked into the house, Bob said, “Let's try just one first. I don't want to burn out the bulb.”

    “Do you think it's that powerful?” asked Frank.

    Bob replied, “I don't know, but it's my only bulb and I don't have 75 cents for another.”

    With his hands shaking with excitement, Bob cut the wires from the basement, stripped back the rubber insulation, and connected them to the dry cell.

    At that, the star started glowing brightly. “It almost hurts to look at it,” said Frank “Do you think it will be OK?”

    Bob thought a moment, then said, “The man at the electric shop told me this bulb is for one storage battery cell. I think that's 2 volts, and Mr. Flemming said the dry cell is 1 1/2 volts, so I think it's OK.”

    Bob disconnected one of the wires and said, “I don't know how long this can light the bulb but I want to save it for the family's Christmas Eve dinner tonight. You can come over later to see it.”

    Frank said, “That will be fun.” He paused then continued, “I remember thinking one day, wouldn't it be swell if we had an electric light we could take with us wherever we went? Just think, no candles blowing out or smelly kerosene and dirty lamp chimneys to clean.”

    “And if you drop it, it won't start a fire,” finished Bob. “Hey, we've got all day... maybe we can rig something up – then we'll really have something to show our folks, and Mr. Flemming, too!”

    5. Bob's Insight

    With that they headed down to Bob's basement workshop. Bob looked around and found an old wood packing box that was just the right size to hold the 2 dry cells. It had a hinged lid so he could put the dry cells inside and latch it shut.

    Frank asked, “But didn't you say 2 cells would probably burn out the bulb?”

    “Yes, but I was thinking we could connect the batteries positive to positive and negative to negative. If you do that they'll last twice as long and the voltage will stay the same as just one. Mr. Blanchard down at the telegraph office told me about that,” said Bob.

    Thinking for a moment, Frank commented, “But we don't know which is positive and which is negative.”

    Bob said, “No, we don't, but I think the outside terminal must be negative because it looks like it's connected to the shell, which appears to be made of zinc. Even if we're wrong, I'm sure both cells are the same so it really shouldn't matter.”

    Frank nodded in awed agreement at his friend's practical insight into the matter.

    Bob had another lamp socket so he wouldn't have to disassemble the Christmas star before the evening. He took the socket and placed it on top of the box and started to mark the place where the screws would fasten it.

    6. "Like a Lighthouse"

    This time it was Frank's turn to impress Bob. “Hey Bob, I was thinking... instead of making it like a lantern, maybe we could make it more like a lighthouse, I mean, instead of the light going all around, maybe somehow making it go all in one direction. I think it will be brighter that way.”

    Bob said thoughtfully, “Um, that sounds like a good idea, but how do lighthouses work?”

    Frank replied, “I think they use a big magnifier and maybe a mirror to reflect the light.” He snapped his fingers and said, “I remember now, they call it a reflector. But where could we get one?”

    After a moment's silence Bob yelled out, “I've got it!” and ran up the stairs.

    A couple of minutes later he came running back down the stairs wearing an old doctor's forehead reflector.

    “This was my great-grandfather's. He was a doctor and used it to reflect light so he could look in people's throats. Dad gave it to me to play with when I was little. I used to make it shine the sun all around my room.”

    Bob used a large washer to cover the hole in the reflector and used a screw to attach it to the front of the box. Then he cut a 3-inch square of wood and attached the lamp socket to it, then attached it to the front of the box just below the reflector with a small iron angle bracket. It looked like a small shelf.

    7. Finishing Touches

    He mounted a U-shaped drawer pull on the top of the box for a carrying handle, and a knife switch on the side so it would be easy to turn on and off.

    While Bob was doing this, Frank drew a diagram of exactly how the cells, switch, and bulb had to be connected; they didn't want to make a mistake and burn out a costly bulb or dry cell.

    Carefully following the diagram, Frank connected the wires. As he did this, Bob checked each connection off on the diagram.

    When they finally finished, Frank said, “Let's go upstairs and get the bulb and try it out.”

    But Bob replied, “No, as much as I want to, if we do something and break or burn out the bulb then my Christmas surprise for the family will be spoiled. We'll try it later tonight. You can come back then. Mom said it would be OK if I had company later. She said there's plenty of apple pie.”

    “Your mom's apple pie? You know I'll be there!”

    After Frank left, Bob took some sandpaper and started to smooth out the wood of their new “wireless electric torch,” as he began to call it in his mind. He wanted to paint it, too, but didn't think it would be dry enough to try it out that same evening.

    8. The Surprise

    As Bob's relatives and parents' friends started to arrive, he helped his parents to greet them and get refreshments. Many commented on how nicely decorated the Christmas tree was, and a few noticed “that nice star” on the top.

    Finally, when everybody had arrived, Bob called out, “Good evening everybody. I wanted to wait until everyone was here for my little surprise.”

    Bob's mother said, “What surprise, Bob? You didn't tell me anything.”

    To which Bob gave the somewhat predictable reply, “Well, if I told you, then it wouldn't be a surprise.”

    “He's got a point, Helen,” said Bob's father. “So let us in on this secret surprise. I know you were up to something earlier today.”

    At that Bob walked over to the Christmas tree, leaned over behind it, and connected the wires to the dry cell that was hidden behind the curtains.

    The light in the star shined brightly and there was a murmur of surprise from the assembled family and guests. Suddenly, his Aunt Bertha said, “What a beautiful surprise. I'll bet even Mr. Edison would be impressed.”

    And at that she started to clap her hands, and Bob was subjected to an unexpected and somewhat embarrassing round of applause.

    As the evening progressed, everyone took a moment to tell Bob what a wonderful thing he had done. Except for Bob's old Aunt Florence who said although it was pretty, she really didn't approve of electric lights. She heard they can cause people to go blind and certainly would never be brighter than a good gaslight. “Just a passing fad,” she finished.

    9. Mr. Flemming's Gift

    Then there was a knock on the door and when Mrs. Parker opened it, Mr. Flemming from the hardware store was standing there, and Frank Lambert was just coming up the sidewalk.

    She welcomed them, led both to the dining room, and invited them to have some pie and punch.

    Bob once again thanked Mr. Flemming for his earlier generosity and showed him the brightly lit star that was powered by one of the dry cells he had given the boys that morning. He said how he wished the man who supplied the store with the cells could see them used in such a unique way.

    Bob then explained that they were only using one because the only bulb he had could not withstand the voltage from two cells.

    Mr. Flemming looked thoughtful for a moment, said, “I almost forgot,” and went to the coat rack in the hall and started digging in his big overcoat pockets. He took out a small box and handed it to Bob. “I thought you might be able to use this bulb. It's 3 volts and about the only people in town I know who could use it is you and Frank.”

    Bob just stood there speechless looking at the bulb, then finally said, “Thank you, Mr. Flemming. I don't know how I'll ever repay you!” But he could see in Mr. Flemming's eyes that perhaps he already felt paid.

    As people started to leave, Bob and Frank were happy to see that the bulb seemed to be burning just as brightly as ever.

    “Mr. Flemming,” called Bob, “please come downstairs with us; I'd like to show you something.”

    10. A Wireless Torch

    “Don't tell me you've already made something with the other dry cell?” said Mr. Flemming curiously as he put his overcoat back up on the coat rack in the hall.

    Bob was behind the Christmas tree disconnecting the wires from the dry cell. He said, “Not only that, but we're going to use both cells, AND this wonderful new light bulb you just gave us!”

    As the three of them trooped down the stairs, Bob's father said from the top of the stairway, “Hey, where are you all going in such a rush?” and proceeded to follow them.

    Bob replied, “Frank and me, we made a wireless electric torch this afternoon and now we can try it out.”

    Bob's father said, “A wireless torch? I don't think there's any such thing.”

    Mr. Flemming interjected, “I've heard about them. They're not very bright and only work for a very short time. I think I heard one called a 'flashlight' once.”

    Bob opened the lid, now on the back of the box, and started to connect the second cell. He didn't want to mess up anything so he quickly drew the series circuit on a scrap of paper. “Now I see! If I connect positive on this cell to negative on the other, then there'll be a positive and a negative free to connect to the light.”

    He made the changes in the wiring and inspected the resulting circuit. It started at the positive connection on one cell which connected to one terminal of the switch. The other switch terminal was connected to one of the light bulb socket terminals. Another wire was connected from the other socket connection back to the negative pole of the second dry cell. Finally, a wire led from the positive terminal of that cell to the remaining, so far unconnected, negative terminal of the first cell.

    Then he removed the new 3 volt bulb from its cardboard box and screwed it into the lamp socket.

    11. "Why Did It Go Off?"

    “Dad, will you turn the gaslight down? I want to see how bright this glows.”

    His father complied and Bob said, “Well, here goes. Uh one, two..., three,” then he closed the switch.

    The light blazed brightly; so brightly that Bob was sure something was wrong and quickly turned it off.

    His father said, “That was so bright! Why did it go off?”

    Bob replied, “I turned it off, I think something must be wrong. I don't think it can be that bright.”

    Mr. Flemming started chuckling and said, “Read what it says on the box. That's a special bulb made for the government. I don't know what they do with them, but I think they're supposed to be that bright.”

    In a monotone, Bob read from the box, “L.E.D., Star-Lux, Extra Bright, 3 Volts, No. 3., Lux Electrical Division, Vaccaro Co., None Genuine without this Signature 'Raymond O. Vaccaro'.” and below it was a scrawled signature with a somewhat abbreviated form of the name.

    12. Aunt Florence has a Problem

    Bob was reaching for the switch to turn it back on when his mother appeared at the top of the stairs, “Robert and Bob,” she called. Since both young Bob and his father were both named Robert, Mrs. Parker distinguished them by calling her husband Robert and her son Bob.

    They both looked up and she said, “Aunt Florence lost one of her best diamond earrings outside. She heard it land on the sidewalk, but can't find it. I went out with a lantern but we just can't see it anywhere – it's so dark tonight.”

    The men and boys all looked at the light, and Mr. Parker said, “We'll be right up, Helen, and if it's out there, we'll find it!”
    As he picked up the lantern, Bob said “Well, I didn't expect to have a serious test so soon. I hope it keeps working.”

    They followed Mrs. Parker outside and down the walk a short ways. Bob's Aunt Florence and her friend Marie Pickering, who had come with her, were looking around on the ground trying to see in the dim circle of light cast by a flickering kerosene lantern.

    Bob walked up and offered assistance. She pointed to where she thought the earring had fallen and told him how it was a gift to her from her grandmother, Bob's great-grandmother, and how it was so important to find it.

    13. "There It Is!"

    Bob switched on the flashlight and as its great light illuminated the area, Frank immediately said, “There it is!” and walked over and picked the earring up from the crack in the sidewalk where it had been partly obscured from sight.

    “Here you are,” he said to Aunt Florence, with a slight bow. “The light from our flashlight caught it just right and I saw it shine.”

    Aunt Florence turned to Bob and said, “Well, Robert, I think I said something about electric lights a little while ago which I now regret. I didn't know they could be so useful. Perhaps next week, you should visit Mr. Flemming at his shop and see what else you could use for your wonderful experiments. Tell him to charge it to me.”

    Bob said in protest, “But Aunt Florence, you really don't have to do that! I'm just happy the flashlight worked so well and you found your earring.”

    At this, Bob's father cut in, “Now Bob,” he said in mock sternness, “you must show respect to your elders. If your Aunt wants to buy you electrical goods, then you're going to have to let her.”

    Mr. Flemming then said, “I'll be expecting a visit soon from both of you. From now on you're going to be known around here as the Flashlight Boys!”

    14. Bob's Gratitude

    As Bob was falling asleep that night, he reflected back on what a wonderful day it had been. Tomorrow was Christmas, but he didn't think there were any gifts that could be better than two dry cells, a special bright bulb, and the respect of his parents, aunt, and Mr. Flemming.

    He said his prayers and along with asking for health and happiness for his family and friends, he hoped he could have his lighting the way for Santa dream again, because this time he knew what to do.

    The End
    Last edited by georget98; 12-07-2008 at 03:58 PM.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* NightStorm's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Between a rock & a hard place.

    Default Re: The Flashlight Boys\' Christmas is now Online

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  3. #3
    Flashaholic georget98's Avatar
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    Aug 2002
    Hyannis, MA

    Default Re: The Flashlight Boys\' Christmas is now Online

  4. #4
    Flashaholic georget98's Avatar
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    Aug 2002
    Hyannis, MA

    Default Re: The Flashlight Boys' Christmas is now Online

    Big Bump from 2003, enjoy.
    Books you may have missed: The Flashlight Boys in The Cave of Darkness, The Flashlight Boys Visit Kodak (uh, oh), The Flashlight Boys New Circuit, in which they discover connecting batteries in series and blind themselves.

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