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Keeping the lights ON
May 26, 2012 2:29 PM   Subscribe

At Clifton's Cafeteria, someone left a light on. For 77 years. A downtown Los Angeles landmark, the Clifton's Cafeteria, has a storied past. Recently sold, it was established during the Great Depression, with a mission to provide affordable coffee and food - a pledge that was honored for decades. While remodeling, the new owners made an astonishing discovery: hidden behind a partition, a neon lamp that was switched on during the Great Depression and it's been on, continuously for 77 years. The owner estimates it's generated more than $17,000 in electric bills. [LATimes - if asked to log in, turn on private browsing and you're good to go - on Safari at least].

""Neon lamps can last 20 to 40 years before the glass deteriorates or transformers go out," said Kim Koga, executive director of the Museum of Neon Art. "That this one has survived, lit, for as long as it has is incredible.""
posted by VikingSword (27 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
That ain't nothing!
posted by HuronBob at 2:35 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


So are they going to keep it on?
posted by Carillon at 2:39 PM on May 26, 2012


More

(slow, rainy day here in Michigan...anything else you need me to google for you while I wait for dinner?)
posted by HuronBob at 2:39 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paging Morrissey!
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:48 PM on May 26, 2012 [31 favorites]


If one "Utility" is owned, rent is 4 times amount shown on dice.
If both "Utilities" are owned, rent is 10 times amount shown on dice.
Mortgage value is $75.
posted by Fizz at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


workers have found other treasures within its walls and hidden crannies.
posted by stevil at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


Has it lasted so long because it's been operating continuously, rather than being turned off and on?
posted by luftmensch at 3:13 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Happy hannukah!
posted by chinston at 3:26 PM on May 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


God Dammit! I bet it was one of my kids.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:44 PM on May 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


The real news here for those of us watching Clifton's transition with great interest is not a stray tube of neon behind a wall, but the possibility that Clifton's building was "recently sold." I'm wondering if this is an error on the part of the Times, which also failed to correct a reference to a non-existent "Clifton" family--Clifton's is a portmanteau for Clifford + Clinton, the founding restaurateur, a mensch and a courageous political reformer)--or a previously unreported fact.

Numerous past reports and press conferences have said that the new managers hold a multi-decade master lease and ownership of the restaurant's LLC, but that the Clifton family maintains ownership of the building. If Clifton's has truly passed out of the hands of the Clinton family after nearly 80 years, that's quite sad, and newsworthy.
posted by Scram at 3:59 PM on May 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Koga said she was amazed that insects or rodents weren't drawn to the warmth of the fragile neon tubes, jeopardizing their operation."

I was under the impression that neon tubes emit almost no heat whatsoever, given that their light comes from elecroluminescence. Perhaps the reporter misquoted/misunderstood Koga's comments? One would think that the "Executive Director of the Museum of Neon Art" would know better.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about neon lighting, but experience leads me to believe that I'm not.
posted by BrandonW at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2012


HuronBob: "That ain't nothing!"

Have you actually read that link? The longest-burning bulb on that list has been burning only since 1937. Whereas this bulb has been burning since 1935. So, yeah - it is something.
posted by koeselitz at 5:06 PM on May 26, 2012


Yeah, but Livermore's bulb had already been burning for almost four decades before it was switched off for that week in '37. And it's a fragile carbon filament, subject to breakage, unlike some rarefied gas in a tube.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:26 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's no way one of those newfangled piece of shit "Green" lightbulbs could accomplish this.
posted by Renoroc at 5:31 PM on May 26, 2012


Brandon, I'm not sure about the tubes, but the electrodes at the ends tend to put out heat. Florescents are the same.
posted by Phantomx at 5:41 PM on May 26, 2012


Koeselitz, that bulb has been burning over 100 years... Yeah, some of the ones on the second list not so long.
posted by HuronBob at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2012


HuronBob: Koeselitz, that bulb has been burning over 100 years... Yeah, some of the ones on the second list not so long."

Nope:

"... survived the renovation of the Firehouse in 1937, when it was off for about a week."
posted by koeselitz at 6:01 PM on May 26, 2012


(It's kind of tricky how they say it's been burning for 100 years but don't mean continuously, I think.)
posted by koeselitz at 6:03 PM on May 26, 2012


HuronBob: "anything else you need me to google for you while I wait for dinner?"

"How do vampires keep their teeth so white when they drink all that blood?"
posted by boo_radley at 6:39 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Byron!
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


And not a mention of the poor moth.
posted by the noob at 8:36 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:39 PM on May 26, 2012


"... survived the renovation of the Firehouse in 1937, when it was off for about a week."

Unless these buildings have their own backup power generators, which have themselves never failed or been deliberately disabled, then I'm almost certain that every one of these lights and any which are similar have been off numerous times during power outages over the years, everything from utility work on nearby lines and tranformers to accidental outages and planned outages. Even with backup power generation, power has almost certainly been turned off where its available during construction on the building and similar. None of these lights have actually been on continuously.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:01 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was under the impression that neon tubes emit almost no heat whatsoever

They emit way less heat than incandescent bulbs, but they do get warm--warm enough that I'm surprised that this did not turn into a fire because of a rodent nest and eventual short.


There's no way one of those newfangled piece of shit "Green" lightbulbs could accomplish this.

Checks watch
posted by Camofrog at 10:33 PM on May 26, 2012


Unless these buildings have their own backup power generators

Livermore's Bulb is in a firehouse, so yes, they have backup generators, however prior to 1976, it wasn't tied in to the circuit fed by the generator.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:57 PM on May 26, 2012


I am sure they didn't just turn it off. It needs to be in Guinness book and continue to be lit forever!
posted by Viacondima at 11:50 PM on May 26, 2012


Pfwah. I bet the world's oldest, unopened, (deliberate) time capsule is waay older than that bulb.

Wherever that might be. If it hasn't been secretly ransacked.
posted by Twang at 7:43 PM on May 27, 2012


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