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“Bad Ass” Aggie Ring Goes to the Art Deco Edison Memorial Tower and “Big Ass Lightbulb!”
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Image by flickr4jazz
I could tell that Aggie Ring was impressed. After several moments of silence he spoke out and said, “If my Eyes of Texas aren’t deceiving me, that’s the biggest damn lightbulb I’ve ever seen! I guess it’s true… Everything IS bigger in Jersey!”

The Aggie Ring woke me up early this morning. In fact it was even before 11:30 a.m. so I knew he wanted to do something. I asked the Aggie Ring, “What do you want to do Aggie Ring?” The Aggie Ring replied, “I want to go see the lightbulb!” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about so I said, “What lightbulb?” The Aggie Ring said with emphasis, “Let there be LIGHT!” Then it hit me. Aggie Ring wanted to drive him up the Parkway to the site of Thomas A. Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory so he could see the Art Deco Edison Memorial Tower and “Big Ass Lightbulb!”

Other than the time he told me that he thought Elvis took our change in a tollbooth on the New Jersey State Turnpike, Aggie Ring has great ideas. It’s only about a 20 to 25 minute drive up the Parkway from our house so Aggie Ring and I set off to see the Edison Memorial Tower. The last time we’d been there it had been in horrible shape and they were beginning work on restoring it. That was a bit over a year ago so I assumed that Aggie Ring figured out that they would be finished with the conservation work on the historical site.

When we drove down the little side street where the tower is located the Aggie Ring was overwhelmed with awe at the restored site. Aggie Ring was truly “speechless!” It’s just as beautiful as the day it was built. They did an incredible job on the restoration. After a few moments sitting in the car just looking out the window Aggie Ring broke his silence and asked me, “Did you bring a cigar? Edison loved his cigars and I think he’d have wanted you to smoke a cigar while you’re looking the place over.” Unfortunately I had left my cigars at home so the Edison “smoke out” will have to happen on a future date.

The laboratory building is no longer at this site but it’s still impressive to think of not only the electric lightbulb, but all of the other great inventions that Mr. Edison invented here. Aggie Ring said, “Imagine. He did all this stuff without the help of an Aggie Ring!”

The Aggie Ring and I walked around the tower and took some photos of the “Big Ass Lightbulb” and the historical plaques at its base. The Aggie Ring and I are planning on going back some evening when the lightbulb is illuminated. Aggie Ring said, “It would be cool if you could get a photo during a thunderstorm when there’s lightning behind the tower.” I told Aggie Ring, “You’re crazy! I’m not standing out in a field during a lightning storm with an Aggie Ring on my finger! Maybe if we can get a VMI grad to come with us. Their rings are so damn big a lightning bolt would hit one of them before us!”

Aggie Ring said, “It’s a good thing Edison invented the lightbulb or there’d be a lot of Waggies drinking their tequila shots by candlelight!” I told the Aggie Ring, “True… Those Waggies love their tequila the invention of the lightbulb makes it a lot easier for them to pour the tequila and do body shots!”

Aggie Ring asked me to provide some info on the Edison “Big Ass Lightbulb” Memorial Tower for your educational enlightenment (“Get it?” Aggie Ring said):

Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Tower and Menlo Park Museum, New Jersey

"Let there be light." Thomas Alva Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory and Memorial Tower. Those of us on the Jersey Shore call it the "Big Ass Lightbulb!”

The Edison Tower, located on the site of the original laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey, to which Thomas Alva Edison moved in 1876, was erected in 1937 as a monument to the great inventor. The Tower is the gift of William Slocum Barstow to the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation Incorporated in behalf of the Edison Pioneers. It was dedicated on February 11, 1838, the ninety-first anniversary of the inventor’s birth.

Rising 131 ft. 4 in. above the ground, the tower looms as the highest discernible object for many miles. Surmounting the 117 ft. 8 in. concrete-slab structure is a 13 ft. 8 in. replica of the original incandescent lamp which, when illuminated, can be seen for a distance of several miles. It once served as an airplane beacon. The Tower is designed for pressure of wind at a velocity of 120 miles per hour. In its construction, which consumed slightly less than eight months, approximately 1200 barrels of Edison Portland cement and 50 tons of reinforced steel were used.

The large bulb on top of the Tower was cast by the Corning Glass Works. The replica bulb contains 153 separate pieces of amber tinted Pyrex glass, 2 in. thick, set upon a steel frame. The bulb is 5 ft. in diameter at the neck and 9 ft. 2 in. in diameter at the greatest width and weighs, without the steel frame on which it is placed, in excess of three tons. Before the restoration, inside this Pyrex glass bulb were four 1000 watt bulbs, four 200 watt bulbs, and four 100 watt bulbs. A duplicate of each was arranged as automatically to cut in should its companion bulb fail.

The Edison Tower has been completely restored and when complete, the bulb is now illuminated with modern Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology. Mr. Edison would be pleased with this, I’m sure.

While we don’t have any records of exactly what was said when Mr. Edison perfected his invention, I suspect one of his workers shouted out something like this: “Holy Mother of Baby Jesus on a Donkey!” “Mr. Edison, You’ve done it!!! You’ve perfected the Electric Light!!! You truly are King of Kings!!!!”

The tower is located on a mysterious plot of land and exactly at midnight on the night of a full moon, it would be a perfect site for the ritual sacrifice of virgins. Too bad we don’t have any of those in New Jersey! 🙂


Aggie Ring says, “The Road Goes On Forever, and the Party Never Ends!”

New Orleans – Iberville: St. Louis Cemetery #1 – New Orleans Musicians Tomb and Barbarin Family Tomb
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Image by wallyg
This historic tomb, which since the 19th century had interred the Sacred Union Society and the Barbarin Family now also acts as the New Orleans Musicians Tomb. The first such burial was that of Lloyd Washington from the Ink Spots on OCtober 23, 2004. The idea to provide free burial to musicians was conceived by Anna Ross Twichell. Burial space was donated by the Barbarin Family and the tomb was restored by Friends of New ORleans Cemeteries. The iron cross was forged and the blue note was cast by glass artist Mitchell Gaudet.

The Barbarin Family is a dynasty of New Orleans Jazz. Several generations have carried the music from its first flowering to the present day. Interred here is musical patriarch, Isidore Barbarin (1872-1960), a man who Louis Armstrong called "Pops." Isidore played trumpet and mellophone in the Excelsior and later the Onward Brass Band, the most fabled brass band in New Orleans from 1900 untilt he end of World War I. He was also a driver of the horse-drawn buggies that undertakers used as hearses until automobiles arrived. He married Josephine Arthidore and three of their sons became jazz drummers: Paul, Louis and Lucien. Lucien is buried in this tomb, as is his son, trumpet player, Charles Barbarin. Also interred here is Isidore Barbarin’s daughter, Rose Barbarin Barker Colombel, mother of Jazz legend Danny Barker. Danny wrote about his grandfather Isidore in his memoir, "A Life in Jazz."

Saint Louis Cemetery #1, which replaced the now vanished St. Peter Cemetery as the main burial ground in New Orleans following the fire of 1788, is the oldest of three Roman Catholic cemeteries bearing the same name. Spanning just one square block on the north side of Basin Street, one block from the inland border of the French Quarter and bordering the Iberville housing project built on top of Storyville, St. Louis #1 is the final resting place of over 100,000 dead. The above ground vaults, mostly constructed in the 18th and 19th century and currently is varied states of disrepair, are said to be needed because the ground water levels in New Orleans make burials impossible, but in reality owe much of their existence to French and Spanish tradition.

Famous New Orleanians buried in St. Louis #1 include Jean Etienne Boré, a wealthy pioneer of the sugar industry and the first mayor of New Orleans; Homer Plessy, the plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights; Benjamin Latrobe, America’s first professional architect; Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, the first African-American Mayor of New Orleans; Paul Morphy, one of the earliest world champions of chess; and Marie Laveau, a legendary Voodoo priestess, whose unmarked grave in the Glapion family crypt is perpetually decorated with gifts and marked x’s or crosses left by visitors.