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Ice Baby: 1941

Ice Baby: 1941

January 1941. "Workers' houses near Pittsburgh Crucible Steel Company in Midland, Pennsylvania." Acetate negative by Jack Delano. View full size.


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In Defense of the Flexible Flyer

The sled which looks like to me as my old friend, Flexible Flyer, and panned as kind of useless actually by conundrum was not useless but loads of fun for my family.

Bought originally around 1940 for my older sister and used into the late 50's by my younger brother was a platform for daring do down the hills of Clifton Park.
Through the years there were many combinations of family and friends who rode the sled downhill towards Belair Road off a green adjacent to Clifton Park Terrace. The best snows were on weekends when Dad would be off and he would come along.

My father had taught my sister then my sister taught me and I in turn taught my brother.

When we were nearing the freezing point Dad took us to a store at Mareco and Belair that sold hot chocolate where he would order up us kids a round while he took Mom a few doors up to a local tavern for a shot of rye and a Gunther beer for himself and for Mom an Arrow draft beer.

Someday I'll have to get into the discussions my parents and my aunts and uncles on my father's side had about Gunther and Arrow beer when they came to our house for a Sunday afternoon visit.

Aunt Ana was neat since after drinking a beer she could blow up a balloon and it floated to the ceiling. Uncle Donald was cool too since he always had a few risque jokes to tell so he would give the kids a dime each to go buy some candy at the confectionary store up the street. At the time that bought a lot of candy since they were all penny candies and some were even 2 for a penny.

Stamped sheetmetal sled runners and uprights

Common until well into the '60s, the runner sliding surfaces were just one edge of an L, often not well-made enough to be actually straight upright. And they were bendy. Not very good unless everything was frozen completely solid. The L flange needed to be much wider for snow. Kind of useless actually.

As kids we were so envious of the kids from next door. They had two sturdy sleds built by their father - the sliding surface runner was inch-wide metal strap firmly screwed to solid wood uprights - no bending. They made our store-bought sleds seem second rate and slid far further.

Re traffic lights: everywhere in the world, red is the top light!

[Incorrect. Back in the day, green was the top light on many a stoplight. - Dave]

Incorrect? Hardly, from my and any reasonable point-of-view.

Saw your other post after I sent mine, so I'll just ask you - back in what day, exactly? You need to provide some real evidence, like a street photo, of these rarely-occurring anomalies. tterrace's example is of a one-off design that never made it commercially. Hardly proof of widespread green light on top traffic signals even "back in the day".

After spending several hours last night looking for some evidence myself of your bald assertion, following my reading of an earlier Shorpy post which I actually read after the one I responded to, I was unable to find anything that sways me to it. Not a thing.

There is of course the Wikipedia entry about the Irish green light in Syracuse NY, and the debacle over that one light was in the 1920s! That had to be done as a special case because it did not meet the New York State Dept of Transportation guidelines in 1925. Maybe there's an anorak website with every combination of everything that ever happened in traffic light design somewhere - I couldn't find it. It would hardly matter if I had in the greater scheme of things.

So it seems no more than somewhat likely that green light on top might have been used by a mere few municipalities in the US, and probably before 1920. Nobody else worldwide bothered to get it wrong! Due to local financial concerns, sure, some anomalies may have not been replaced for years, confusing the color-blind and those folk who never can quite remember their left from right or east from west. Those who "remember" green on top are in that category, I'd suggest. Having conducted many safety hearings following accidents in my career, one thing I do know is that most people are quite unobservant, because their recounting of incidents never matches exactly, and some are fantasy.

There is all sorts of history as to why red is placed on top, both for longer visibility in fog due to color sensitivity and earlier detection by the motorist cresting a hill before an intersection, and so on. Not to mention catering to the 20% of males with red/green color-blindness by standardization of position.

A traffic light in Philadelphia in 1941, though? Get away with you. I'd bet money it was standard configuration.

An extremely minor use of green on top may have occurred, sometime, somewhere, a hundred years ago. I'll agree to that. But as a useful reaction to my and others' comments, to call universal use of red on top "incorrect" is pedantry. I know it when I read it, because I tend to be a pedant myself. Comes from being a professional engineer for 42 years and a manager of them for half that. So who cares about the .01% of lights that might have been upside down long ago? Not even me.

You own the site - you can claim right by might. However, if you insist on calling me incorrect, using the reason that very occasional anomalies once existed, remove my entire post forthwith, please. There are civil ways of mentioning occasional occurrences of something as points of interest. To make a bald impolite assertion of "incorrect" I cannot accept and won't be associated with in this case, thanks all the same.

[Green-on-top stoplights were (literal) fixtures of my childhood. On cross-country family trips in 1965 and 1971, I'd announce them to the rest of the car whenever I saw one, mostly in small towns of the American West. It took less than a minute of googling to find the ads below -- from the 1930 trade publication "Municipal Index," both showing green-on-top signals. Which I suspect comprised a substantial percentage of early 12-lamp fixtures. - Dave]

Click to enlarge.

On every corner

The mom and baby are likely watching the kid on the sled, who's eyeballing the photographer right back. Fun family scene. Then there's that guy who's on every corner in these shots, the needs-a-drink guy. My seasonal best wishes go out to him this year.

The Non-Romantic Look of Cold and Snow

Grey, cold, bleak. Delano is awfully good at bringing out that look. (And this is a great picture, right down to Mother and child at the window).

Wikipedia notes that, after the War, Delano settled in Puerto Rico. The antithesis of the cold, snow, bleak we see in these pictures. Hmm.

Red is grey and yellow white

But we decide which is right
And which is an Illusion.
So, the traffic signal is on red or green?


Having grown up in Philadelphia, I can say the smart people are INSIDE!

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