changing the tower light bulb (it’s too late, baby)


Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

BACK IN PRE-REAGAN AMERICA, back in the ’60s when the wealthy and the cor­po­ra­tions still paid some­thing re­sem­bling a rea­son­able tax rate, many (white) high schools in these here United States had a Guid­ance Coun­selor. This per­son’s job was to as­sist ju­niors and se­niors in rec­og­nizing and un­der­standing their in­ter­ests and skills and guide them to­wards courses that might help them to­wards re­al­izing the goal of a re­warding career.

One of the ways they did this was to give us an “ap­ti­tude test” (per­haps this was some­thing more formal and should be cap­i­tal­ized as Ap­ti­tude Test), which was a bat­tery of ques­tions to help those Guid­ance Coun­selors to rec­og­nize and un­der­stand their stu­dents’ potential.

I re­member taking the tests but nothing of what con­sti­tuted those tests. But I do re­member my re­sults: I was best suited for a job as a park ranger, living alone in a fire tower some­where in the middle of a forest some­where far to the west of North­eastern Pennsylvania.

Seemed in­sane to me then, not so in­sane now—provided I had ac­cess to fe­male com­pan­ion­ship every now and again.


Let there be light

This was brought to mind by the video below that was fea­tured in to­day’s Big Geek Daddy email newsletter. Ti­tled “Changing The Tower Light Bulb,” the text that in­tro­duced this video reads (mod­i­fied for those of us who pay at­ten­tion to grammar and punctuation):

“How many workers does it take to change the light bulb on a 1,500-foot TV tower in South Dakota? If you’re a tower-climber like Kevin Schmidt, then it only takes one person to climb the tower, one to film it using an aerial drone, and prob­ably a couple of others on the ground pro­viding sup­port. The light bulb he’s changing is at the top of an in­ac­tive 1,500-foot high analog broad­cast an­tenna for KDLT-TV near Salem, South Dakota. This line of work is not for the faint-hearted . . .”

This tower is 1,500 feet tall. Yet ac­cording to a “List of tallest struc­tures in the United States by height” on Wikipedia, this tower is 609.6 me­ters tall, which is 2,000 feet! Ei­ther way, if this struc­ture was in New York City, Mr. Schmidt would be looking DOWN at the Em­pire State Building!

I can see me han­dling this job: I not only have no fear of heights but ac­tu­ally enjoy the act of climbing—which is a very dif­ferent ex­pe­ri­ence than taking an el­e­vator to the top of a tall struc­ture for the plea­sure of looking down!

Loathe as I am to as­sume things, I as­sume that it’s too late for a ca­reer change to tower-climber for me as I sit at my com­puter at the age of 64 sip­ping at my ubiq­ui­tous cuppa coffee lis­tening to Ca­role King’s mon­u­mental 1971 album TA­PESTRY (“And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late”).

By the way, ac­cording to those ap­ti­tude tests, I scored a zero (that’s “0”) in mu­sical ap­ti­tude, which caused my GC to re­mark that he’d never seen a zero in any­thing on these tests be­fore. That is, I had ab­solutely no in­terest in the whole wide world in any­thing musical.

Newly ac­quired readers of my work here at Neal Umphred Dot Com are in­vited to visit my other sites, Rather Rare Records and Elvis – A Touch Of Gold . . . 



FEA­TURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is a still from the orig­inal 1933 re­lease of King Kong, per­haps the most as­tounding spe­cial ef­fects movie ever made. Made in 1932, King Kong was an RKO Radio Pic­tures film pro­duced and di­rected by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoed­sack. King Kong re­ally starred the stop-motion an­i­ma­tion of Willis O’Brien (with as­sis­tance from his pro­tegé Ray Har­ry­hausen), and was the first truly great “spe­cial ef­fects movie.” And went to be­come a legend among stop-motion an­i­ma­tion artists and fans, re­spon­sible for some of the finest fan­tasy films ever made, with his mas­ter­piece being The Sev­enth Voyage Of Sinbad (1958).

King Kong also fea­tured an equally amazing score by Max Steiner. The com­poser stated, “It was made for music. It was the kind of film that al­lowed you to do any­thing and every­thing, from weird chords and dis­so­nances to pretty melodies.”

“There had never been a score so am­bi­tious and so per­fectly at­tuned to the vi­suals; Steiner’s music for King Kong was and is a land­mark of film scoring, as much re­spon­sible for the suc­cess of the film as Cooper’s imag­i­na­tion and O’Brien’s gifted an­i­ma­tion.” (Ronald Haver, David O. Selznick’s Hollywood)

Oh, right, the ac­tors: the movie fea­tured Fay Wray with Bruce Cabot and Robert Arm­strong. King Kong has been re­made sev­eral times but be­ware and AC­CEPT NO SUB­STI­TUTES for the real deal! (Al­though Naomi Watts in the 2005 re­make is glo­rious in the Fay Wray role.)



I am not let­ting an op­por­tu­nity to in­clude a pho­to­graph of a beau­tiful woman for even the flim­siest of rea­sons pass me by. This is a photo of Fay Wray cow­ering in fear of the Great Ape. Ms. Wray made her first fea­ture film in 1925 and her last in 1980. Her fame today rests al­most ex­clu­sively on playing the beauty to Kong’s beast.


2 thoughts on “changing the tower light bulb (it’s too late, baby)”

  1. I was hoping for some King Kong after the lead pic­ture, but ver­tigo PLUS! My inner ear needed to go right back to the not overly skinny Fay Wray.

    Guid­ance Coun­selors! I re­member mine looking like Elmer Fudd. Could’a been the same one that gave you a Zero (0) in mu­sical aptitude.

    Long live Harryhausen!

    • Yeah, the fea­tured image is a teaser, heyna? I dunno, Fay Wray looks re­ally yummy to me.

      My GC was tall and lean and if you said his name I would prob­ably re­member it. He didn’t give me a zero; ac­cording to those inane tests, I simply showed no in­terest in music so scored a “0”!

      Har­ry­hausen did a lot of great ef­fects for oth­er­wise lame movies, such as MYS­TE­RIOUS IS­LAND and JASON & THE ARGONAUTS—which you and I prob­ably saw at Forty Fort or Swoy­ersville or Luzerne—and the rel­a­tively un­known VALLEY OF THE GWANGI from 1968 when we paying at­ten­tion to other things.

      I love ’em all!!!


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