Burnin' up

CBS 5 anchor Juliette Goodrich pens children's book about Livermore's centennial light bulb

Believe it or not, there's a light bulb that's been burning in Livermore long before the invention of the automobile, before the Wright brothers took their first solo flight and before America put a man on the moon.

If you haven't heard by now, Fire Station No. 6 on East Avenue is home to the world's longest burning light bulb at 107 years old.

With its age comes notoriety. The famous hand-blown luminary was featured on all the major news networks such as ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and CNN when it turned the milestone age of 100 in 2001.

Livermore resident Dick Jones remembers it well. Barry Schrader, a Tri-Valley historian and president of the Livermore Heritage Guild, told Jones of the impending birthday and suggested holding a celebration to commemorate it. So, Jones called a friend, Steve Bunn, and four days later, they put up a website, They called the local newspapers and the local CBS station got wind of it and aired a story on it. Then, things got a little crazy.

"At 3:30 in the morning, the (morning of) the party, I got a call from the fire station," Jones said. "They said FOX, CNN, ABC, CBS, all of them are parked out back and they're going to do live feeds to New York with Peter Jennings and Katie Couric. We scrambled and called the fire chief and whoever we could think of and sent them down there."

So much for a small celebration. The roughly 200 people volunteers had been expecting turned out to be 800 people.

"It was a lot of fun," Jones said.

Since then, it's also been featured on the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Juliette Goodrich, who anchors the CBS 5 news at noon, was the emcee for the celebration. Having grown up in Pleasanton, she was familiar with the folklore of the centennial bulb, but had never seen it with her own eyes and was intrigued.

"It was my first introduction to the light," she said. "I just thought how amazing it was to have this piece of history in Livermore in our own backyard. For these firefighters who work there, no one wants to be on duty if the light goes out. Every morning, they look and take a peek at it and it's their little comfort."

Made by Shelby Electric Co. of Shelby, Ohio, it is a 4-watt carbide filament bulb. It was first installed at the fire department hose cart house on L Street in 1901. Shortly after, it was moved to a main firehouse on Second Street.

In 1903, the bulb was moved to the new Fire Station No. 1 on First and McLeod streets. In 1976, accompanied by a full police and fire truck escort, it was moved to Fire Station No. 6 on East Avenue, where it resides today. At the time, a city electrician screwed the bulb in place, but it didn't turn on. After wiggling the switch, the bulb illuminated to its dim shade, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. The light has been on continuously, except for the times it's been relocated.

Goodrich's interest in the bulb drew her to write a children's book on the subject, called "The Little Light Shines Bright." The mother of three, who lives in Dublin, decided to take on her goal during maternity leave after her third child was born two years ago.

"I decided to self-publish so I could have more control over the content and ideas," she said.

She set out by hiring an illustrator and used photos taken by Jones, who has an aerial photography business. In the book, a little boy who has an uncanny resemblance to her 2-year-old son, visits Fire Station No. 6 and along the way learns how long it's been burning in terms of the historical events that have happened along the way.

"It shows what's happened in the history of the light being on--trains, planes, the automobile, radio, Disneyland opened, the first heart transplant--so kids can see what's happened over the years," she said.

Armed with input from her children, she also read a draft of the book to a couple of local classrooms to see what they thought of it.

The children were most interested in how much energy the bulb wasted, but Goodrich assured them that the 4-watt bulb wasn't a big energy hog.

"I think I've been more excited to see my work in print than I've ever been to see my work on TV," she said.

Goodrich will hold a book signing from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Dublin Barnes & Noble bookstore, 4972 Dublin Blvd., where the book will be on sale for $11.95. Proceeds from the signing will go to Dublin Elementary School. Other proceeds from the book will go to the Alisa Ann Rush Burn Foundation which helps burn survivors and advocates for burn prevention. The book can be purchased at

Jones said anyone who's interested can visit the light bulb, which is hangs by a wire from the ceiling, depending on the availability of the firefighters on duty. The fire station is located at 4550 East Ave. and the phone number there is 454-2361.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim J
a resident of Oak Hill
on Nov 21, 2008 at 3:08 pm

This light has been on for about as long as De La Salle has been winning football games.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Oak Hill
on Nov 22, 2008 at 12:16 am

I had an opportunity to see the light bulb. Quite interesting to realize you are observing a piece of history. Imagine if the bulb could recite all the events that's taken place during its existence...

Let's hope it burns for another 107 years...

Like this comment
Posted by Ken in South Pleasanton
a resident of Downtown
on May 14, 2009 at 8:04 am

I wonder what that bulb's carbon footprint has been over the past 107 years and how many polar bears it has killed off.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael
a resident of Livermore
on May 14, 2009 at 8:06 am

I just wish we could get a light bulb burning in the brains of our politicans for 107 seconds.

Like this comment
Posted by Point a finger and three point back
a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 14, 2009 at 9:24 am

I wish we would all hold our elected representatives accountable.

For all of you who have year-over-year elected tax and spenders and voted for bond measure-after-bond measure and countless well intended (or not) dubious social welfare programs via our direct-democracy experiment called the ballot initiative process, I urge you to take a stop, take a look in the mirror and repeat after me: "I am directly responsible for this mess".

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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