Dig­ging Mod­ern

The search be­gan with a light switch, but it led to a ware­house full of new old stock 1960s and ’70s light­ing.

Atomic Ranch - - Contents - Writ­ten and pho­tographed by Chad Baker

As we made mi­nor cos­metic changes, we de­ter­mined that we needed a light switch at the bot­tom of our stair­case. We didn’t want to lose the feel from the rest of the home’s unique porce­lain-based light switches—which were made in Switzer­land—so the hunt be­gan.

Upon pur­chas­ing our Mid­cen­tury Mod­ern home, my wife Tina and I main­tained a goal to keep the char­ac­ter as orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble.

Not finding a good source on­line, our hunt ex­tended to a lo­cal search. For­tu­nately, our home’s breaker box had the orig­i­nal elec­tric con­trac­tor’s name on the door and in­cluded their ad­dress from 1963. I looked up the ad­dress, and to my sur­prise, the com­pany was still in busi­ness—or so I thought. The next day I stopped by the of­fice. Upon en­ter­ing it was ap­par­ent that the place hadn’t been up­dated since it was built in the early ’60s. There was only one guy, and he ap­peared to be clean­ing out his of­fice. With ex­cite­ment in my voice, I in­tro­duced my­self and pro­vided him with the back­ground story. I pro­ceeded to show him the light switch and ask if he had any hid­den away in the back. He ex­am­ined the switch and said, “Yes, I remember the switch, but we don’t have any.”

He then told me that he sold the busi­ness and needed to be out within a few weeks. I felt a bit dis­cour­aged but con­tin­ued to prompt him for more in­for­ma­tion about the his­tory of his busi­ness as well as the new own­ers. Turns out it had been a fam­ily owned busi­ness that, like many small busi­nesses, was hit hard by the re­ces­sion. Due to lack of in­ter­est and de­clin­ing prof­its, he made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to sell to it to a larger elec­tri­cal con­trac­tor. Af­ter shar­ing about the com­pany, he pro­vided me with the con­tact in­for­ma­tion of the new own­ers.

Sev­eral days later, I called the new own­ers to in­quire about the unique light switches and any old in­ven­tory they might have. The new owner, Robert, was a bit in­ter­ested in why I wanted old switches to put in a house. He didn’t un­der­stand why we wouldn’t just go to the lo­cal big box hard­ware store for light switches. Af­ter telling Robert all about our home in my overly ex­cited voice he said, “I have never heard of any­one who likes light­ing from that time pe­riod, you need to come to my ware­house. I have pal­lets of new old stock light­ing from the ’60s and ’70s.”

Ob­vi­ously, upon hear­ing that he had pal­lets of new old stock (NOS), I could hardly con­tain my ex­cite­ment. Main­tain­ing my com­po­sure as best as pos­si­ble, we sched­uled an ap­point­ment for the fol­low­ing week. Driv­ing to the ware­house, the thought crossed my mind that it would be an­other dead end; how­ever, I tried to stay pos­i­tive. Once we met at an aban­doned ware­house out in the coun­try, Robert pro­ceeded to tell me that the ware­house was used as a stor­age fa­cil­ity to house the in­ven­tory from busi­ness he had ac­quired over the last few years. Robert led me to the back cor­ner where there were, in fact, pal­lets of NOS light­ing from Moe Light­ing, Presco­l­ite and Lightolier. Jack­pot!

The cor­ner was dimly lit, so I used my cell­phone flash­light and opened each box, pulling out lights and ask­ing prices. Robert sug­gested that I make a pile and then dis­cuss a price. Af­ter many hours of dig­ging in my own per­sonal light heaven, I had a van­load of trea­sures. We agreed on a rea­son­able price, and I headed back to my own ware­house.

I couldn’t wait to call Tina to tell her about the light­ing. Although I didn’t find any of our light switches, she was still in­cred­i­bly ex­cited to see the fresh in­ven­tory for her so-called “shop­ping trips” at my ware­house. As usual, she con­fis­cated sev­eral of the finds for use in our home and the re­main­ing in­ven­tory went up for sale.

“I have never heard of any­one who likes light­ing from that time pe­riod, you need to come to my ware­house. I have pal­lets of new old stock light­ing from the ’60s and ’70s.”

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