Paterson “Lazy Light”

A retired electrical contractor whose signal ad I responded to told me the story that, long ago, Paterson contractors traditionally used the monies from scrap to fund an annual celebration.  This changed in the early 1970s when Mayor Thomas Rooney directed those monies to a fund that his office had control of.  Some contractors, like the one I met through the ad, snubbed this policy by keeping at least some of the equipment rather than scrapping it.  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 signal head made by Highway Signal & Sign Co. of Newark, NJ. Chris later offered the HSS signal to me, which I happily accepted (as evidenced by my smiling countenance above).  The light was configured for horizontal (i.e., “lazy”) mounting, a common practice in many NJ cities.

I was delighted to discover that the contractor had saved the end of a “trombone” style aluminum mast arm from the corner of Main & Market Streets. I was driven through that intersection many times as a child when my Mom and my aunts would take us downtown to shop at Meyer Brothers and other stores.   I mounted the signal I bought from Chris to the trombone mast and hung it from the basement ceiling.  I love having a cool Paterson artifact in the collection.

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 fondly remember a pair of  4-way signals that were hung at the corner of Mill and Grand Streets in Paterson, but were gone by the time I was 6 or 7 years old.

Fast-forward to 2019; lo and behold, the contractor dragged those two 4-ways I remembered out of storage! These were a GE and a Marbelite, both of late 1940s vintage, both in his possession since the days of Mayor Rooney.  The Marbelite had been knocked down (note damaged/missing visors) and they decided at that point to re-do the whole intersection with new masts and signals.

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!