Paterson “Lazy Light”

A retired electrical contractor whom I contacted through a signal ad on Craigslist told me the story that during the administration of Paterson Mayor Thomas Rooney (1972-74), all money from scrap was to go into a fund that the mayor’s office had control of, rather than being used by the contractors for their traditional annual celebration.  Many contractors decided to snub the policy change by keeping much of the equipment they took down in those years, therefore I can thank the former mayor for indirectly helping me obtain a vintage signal from my birthplace almost fifty years later!

Chris Sebes (webmaster of and I each visited the contractor’s garage in response to his ad on separate occasions. Chris bought a less commonly seen signal made by Highway Signal & Sign Co. of Newark, NJ. Some vintage signal collectors have wondered about the history of this brand. While Marbelite bought out Horni’s Signal division in 1947, the Highway Signal & Sign brand appears to be a separate branch from Horni with its own design. Highway Signal & Sign undoubtedly was acquired by LFE-Automatic Signal sometime in the ’50s or ’60s.

Chris later offered the HSS signal to me, which I happily accepted (as evidenced by my smiling countenance above).  The light was configured for “lazy” (i.e., horizontal) mounting, a common practice in many NJ cities.

When I had visited the contractor, I was also very delighted to discover that he had saved the end of a “trombone” style aluminum mast arm from the corner of Main & Market Streets. I was driven under that mast many times as a child when my Mom and my aunts would take us downtown to shop at Meyer Brothers and other stores.  As seen above, I mounted the signal I bought from Chris to the trombone mast and wired it up to the EF-20.  I love having the horizontal and vertical lights synced up.

As a footnote to this story: There were only a handful of fixed-face 4-way signals in the Paterson-Clifton area when I was growing up. I still clearly remember that when I was very young, the corner of Mill and Grand Streets in Paterson was controlled by a pair of yellow 4-way signals; one with cutaway visors, the other with tunnels.

The Mill and Grand 4-ways were replaced a long time ago, and had became a very distant but fond memory of my early youth. Fast-forward to 2019, lo and behold, the contractor dragged them out of storage; a GE and a Marbelite, both of late 1940s vintage! As with all of the equipment in his possession, they had been retired and stashed away back in the Mayor Rooney era.

Due to a shortage of cash and space, I passed on the opportunity to buy either of the 4-ways, but it was pretty wild to see them come out of the woodwork after 45+ years, and yes, it is a little scary to think that I actually remembered them. Quite the blast from the past!