Fort Worth's

Palace Bulb's 60th

Light Hasn't Failed

by Elston Brooks of the Star Telegram...................Sept 22, 1968

It's birthday cake would have shone brighter but never, never longer.

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...

* * *

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 Theatre.

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 Light".

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.


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.

* * *

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.

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