I am attempting to document all of the flashlights that my neighbors and relatives used when I was a child in the late 1980s through the 1990s. I say, neighbors and relatives because many of my relatives were also in fact neighbors. This was truly an awesome time for flashlights, as it was the last decade before the personal lighting equipment industry lost its innocence to the LED. Aside from modern flashlights, the three decades of flashlights I enjoy most are the 1960s and the 1980s-1990s.
My family did not subscribe to Internet service until the Summer of 2000. Therefore, the only brands I was familiar with were those sold in brick and mortar stores. I knew mostly about your run of the mill Rayovac, Eveready/Energizer, Garrity, Brinkmann, Coleman, Maglite as well as the in-house brands. I had no knowledge of SureFire or Streamlight. That meant that Maglite was what I and most everyone else who didn’t have Internet access thought was the ultimate flashlight available. Also, there was no NiteCore, Terralux, JetBeam, Fenix, 4Sevens, ThorFire, Olight, etc invented yet. Actually the first time I saw an LED flashlight was in the Fall of 2002 in the C. Crane Catalog, but that’s another story of which I have yet to write.
The only other person on my block beside myself who owned Maglites was my great uncle by marriage. He was an ex-Marine and a jack of all trades, not to mention an excellent automotive body parts and accessories salesman. Needless to say, he purchased top quality equipment. He had a Maglite of some sort in each of his vehicles and the original 1982 Mag Charger in his home. At the time I only had a 4 D sized Maglite which I was quite proud of. We would sit and talk about flashlights quite often. Unfortunately, he passed away in September 2014. God, I miss him.
My Paternal Grandfather was a foreman at a sugar factory until his early sixties but also raised cattle and produce during his off hours and well into retirement, in fact, up until his late 80s. He mostly purchased budget-friendly 6 Volt lanterns, such as the Eveready Commander or Rayovac L295. These were likely for tending cattle or sowing crops after dark but probably assisted him when working nights at the sugar factory as well. He also had a Bright Star 575 which kept me entertained while we ran away from Hurricane Andrew (we went to Brookhaven Mississippi.) He had later bought some Ozark Trail (Wal Mart in-house brand) 6 Volt lanterns which he still has. Whenever he bought one of these lights, he would always take a knife and scratch either his name or at least his initials on the body of the lantern. Sometimes he also used a paint marker or a Sharpie. I wonder if he picked up this habbit at work so no one would take them. However, that is only a guess. I do the same thing whenever I buy a 6 Volt lantern.
My Paternal Grandmother carried a red transparent plastic flashlight in her purse for years. Looking back I’ll assume that it was some incarnation of the Pelican Mity Lite, but I’m not 100% sure. It was given to her by my great aunt (her younger sister), who is the widow of the first person mentioned in this piece. She used to have a Maglite Solitaire on her car keys ring, by the way. Back to my Maw Maw’s flashlight: it had a magnet on the tail end, the switch was a bezel that could be twisted for on/off and ran on 2 AAA batteries. I remember her saying that she had it in Walt Disney World Hall of Presidents when another tourist had lost a piece to an expensive camera. They were lighting matches to find it under the seats, so my Maw Maw kindly lent them her flashlight to prevent a potentially serious disaster. They were able to locate the piece and she would frequently tell me this story, much to my amusement. My Maw Maw would also inspect our throats with this flashlight whenever any of us fell sick. Unfortunately, this light had cracked and fell apart and she had replaced it with a cheap Dorcy single AAA LED flashlight sometime in 2006.
My Maternal Grandmother kept a high powered rechargeable lantern in her kitchen between the refrigerator and stove. I’m guessing it was either a First Alert Ready-Lite or one of the Radio Shack Archer flashlights. It was given to her as a gift and I had always admired it whenever I would visit her house. She had passed away on November 24, 2003, and life hasn’t been the same ever since. I wish I would have asked my mom for that light right after my grandma passed, but I didn’t and now I don’t know what happened to it. One way I remember her is that I keep a rechargeable flashlight plugged in my kitchen wall. Her husband (My Maternal Grandfather) passed away 29 years before I was born so I unfortunately never knew him. I am told that I take after these two family members.
There was an older man who lived down the road from me who worked in the chemical plants. He was married to a cousin of mine, until his death on March 15, 2003. One night in August of 1998, while throwing a crawfish boil, he had discovered a nine-foot rattlesnake by his swimming pool. Thinking quickly, he retrieved a boat paddle and bludgeoned it to death. He then took it to my paternal grandparents’ house in a five-gallon bucket to show us. Since it was getting dark (and about to storm) he had his work-issued flashlight an Eveready 1259 with him and shone the light on the dead snake. I pulled out my Garrity Mini Rugged Lite and also shined it on the dead snake. I was amazed at how my light was brighter. I now fully realize why it was brighter and will explain further if anyone asks.
My parents had several Eveready 3251 flashlights (those are the Value models) from the 1980s and 1990s. There was a Blue Eveready Value Lite my parents were using during a nighttime power failure brought on by a thunderstorm, but the batteries were exhausted. They wanted desperately to see inside the kitchen medicine cabinet and ended up parking their 1981 Chevette in such a way that the headlights shone into the kitchen from the driveway. I was an infant at the time, but I remember the bits and pieces of the event. The only thing is I cannot seem to figure out what time of year it was. They also kept a Bright Star 575, a Sears All Weather Floating Lantern in the cabinets above the washer and dryer. All of these are now gone and have been upgraded. The Sears lantern is probably what sparked my interest in flashlights because my mom would turn off the lights and shine it on the ceiling and walls when I was an infant, to amuse me. Unfortunately for Halloween of 1991 I was insisting that I needed a flashlight for trick or treating and went into the utility room cabinets to retrieve it only to find out that the battery and/or bulb was no good. For whatever reason, my mom threw it out that very afternoon. I really wish she wouldn’t have. Another story I have was in the Summer of 1990: My brother and sister were newborns and I was three. I was watching them while my dad was at work and my mom was preparing lunch (homemade Popeye’s biscuits.) There had been a severe thunderstorm going on and I believe there was a tornado nearby since it became dark as night and the electricity was knocked off. Believe it or not, we didn’t have a Weather Radio. However, we all went into the hallway (the center of the house) by the light of my Paw Paw’s Eveready Commander Lantern, which was kept in the cabinet above the microwave with the heavy pots and pans for years.
I have an uncle by marriage who also lived next door to me. When I was younger he worked in the shipyards as a welder, but currently works in a transload tank terminal where he welds pipe and does other tasks. Those types of jobs typically mean going to work before the sun comes up and coming home many times after the sun goes down, so he always had a flashlight with him. He had many over the years, but I never really saw any of them up close. I know he had a Rayovac 6 Volt lantern with a pivoting stand and a Rayovac Workhorse Fluorescent Tube lantern. Later on, he had a blue Garrity 3 AAA LED metal flashlight that he found in a parking lot. I remember one time I was about seven years old playing in my backyard after school with a small Eveready IN-215. He was coming in from work and going to his barn. I shined my flashlight at him and he acknowledged with his bigger and brighter flashlight. He and my Aunt also gave me my first flashlight for Christmas of 1988, one of those Playskool 2 C lanterns. My Aunt was a school teacher for about thirty years and from about the late 1990s probably until retirement, she had a 2 AA Rayovac Value Lite black with yellow trim and switch in her desk in case the power went out. They also had a 1985 Garrity Tuff Lite with blue trim and lanyard hanging in their pantry. Their grandson was born in 2016 and for his first birthday, I gave him an Energizer LED flashlight that one has to physically hold for it to come on and stay lit. Well someone has to plant the flashlight seed. And who better than myself?
Those are all I can think of at the moment. I hope you the reader have been informed and maybe even entertained…