Above: Me in the back yard in front of our beloved Mulberry tree.
Late January, 1974. Shorncliffe, Brisbane.
Your typical five year old boy (after customarily dumping his school bag in the hallway) headed straight for a favorite toy – like a truck or some marbles, or was down to the back yard with the dog or next door at his mate’s house. Not me. I was the boy who played with light bulbs…
Beneath the floorboards of my parents’ Queenslander home, an electric cable leads to a bakelite socket on a small wooden block, still clutching a dusty old pear-shaped bulb. A cable leads away from the fixture to a round bakelite switch near the back steps. Pushing the stiff switch down, I hear that unmistakable ‘ping’ of the heavy spring contact as it completes the circuit. A familiar warm incandescent glow reveals the old laundry area enclosed by weather worn timber battens.
As I stare into the glowing bulb, the familiar circular label on the bottom of the lit bulb is now a little easier to read :
“Osram 150 MADE IN AUSTRALIA”
The light from the bulb seems brighter now as the sky darkens outside. Rain begins to fall, heavily, continuing for days on end. Brisbane’s 1974 floods had arrived…
It was some 35 years later, upon meeting renowned lamp collector Fin Stewart, I learned that my special light bulb was just one of millions produced by E.L.M.A lamp works in Newcastle, to meet the lighting needs of a growing Australia.
Born in 1940, Fin had amassed a collection of light bulbs from all over the world over his lifetime. Among Fin’s collection are some amazing specialty lamps, as well as some highly significant one-off products from Australia’s E.L.M.A lamp factory, which closed in 2002.
In 2014, I acquired these iconic lamps from Fin, not the least of which are ELMA’s first and last production lamps.
Fin and I remain friends to this day, and although we live almost 8 hours drive from one another, we regularly enjoy catching up to chat over afternoon tea.