Long Lasting Livermore light makes it into Ripley's
by Brian McClimans STAFF WRITER
LIVERMORE - Thomas Edison would be proud if he walked into the headquarters of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department.
The station at 4550 East Ave. is home to what is believed to be the world's longest burning light bulb, celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year.
Though not an official record, the longevity of the bulb has been recognized by Ripley's Believe It or Not!.
"I've been with Ripley's for 24 years and in my 24 years there's no other competition to the Livermore light bulb," said Edward Meyer, the vice president of exhibits and archives for Ripley Entertainment.
There have been countless challengers to the Livermore bulb. The Martin and Newby electrical shop in Ipswich, England, this month claimed their 70-year-old bulb, which recently blew out, was the longest burning, according to a Reuters news report.
Guiness World Records, which typically is an authority on such things, said they wouldn't recognize light bulb longevity without absolute proof. But, the proof gathered by Ripley's is enough for them to recognize Livermore's bulb.
Founded by Robert Ripley, the company is famous for finding oddities like long-burning light bulbs. Livermore's bulb was discovered in 1972 by Ripley's San Francisco museum curator Charles Tellen, Meyer said.
I've been with Ripley's for 24 years and in my 24 years there's no other competition to the Livermore light bulb.
"He went(to Livermore), saw it, interviewed people and was convinced the light bulb had been running that long." Meyer said.
At the time, Tellen was looking around Northern California for exhibits to feature at the San Francisco museum, the now-defunct Ripley's attraction in Santa Rosa (Ripley's hometown) and for Ripley's publications, Meyer said.
Ripley's is aware of the challenges to the age of the Livermore bulb, but so far hasn't taken away its title.
"It's the number one as far as I'm concerned and I'm speaking for the company," Meyer said.
The Bulb's longevity was authenticated by first hand research by Ripley's. The bulb can be matched to catalogs from the early 1900s.
"When push comes to shove we come down to people's words...that these people are telling the truth," Meyer said.
General Electric Co. also has verified the age and longevity of the bulb.
"General Electric confirmed that it was an antique from its hand blown casing," said Tom Bramell, the LPFD deputy fire chief.
The three-watt bulb was created by former Valley business Shelby Electric Co. It is made with a carbide filament that has the thickness of a pencil.
One of the reason's for the longevity is that the bulb has almost never been turned off. The only time the light has gone out was during the power outages and was turned out for about 23 minutes in 1976 when the fire station moved from First Street to East Avenue.
And when the power goes out, a generator keeps it and the rest of the station's power going.
"We're very proud of the fact that we have a historical light bulb in our station," Bramell said.
Bramell and many firefighters are hopeful the bulb will burn for many years to come.
"We don't think about it going out and I don't want it to be going out on my watch," Bramell said. "I suspect it will probably run for a longtime. I've never even seen it just flicker."
But Bramell does realize the end one day will come for the bulb. Nobody knows what will happen when it does--though Ripley's would love to snag the piece for the San Francisco museum.
"If the bulb goes out I hope I'm first in line," Meyer said. "At that point they'd get a little more recognition from us."