In 1973 I had a year’s experience as a Journeyman Electrician after completing 4 years of apprenticeship. I was on a job in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with a man named Ed, who was from St. Louis, Missouri. At lunchtime it was customary for the crew to tell stories of days-gone-by and one day Ed told us about Jimmy The Steeplejack.
Jimmy was another electrician in St. Louis who Ed worked with in the mid-1960s. After work the guys would go out on the town together to meet women or just hang out in a bar or nightclub. No matter where Ed went, he always seemed to run into Jimmy and Jimmy always had a date.
According to Ed, Jimmy was not much to look at but he was always with the most beautiful woman in the room. After a year or so of double-dating with Jimmy, or just encountering him and a date by chance, Ed decided to find out Jimmy’s secret.
One day at work Ed pulled Jimmy aside at the beginning of lunch and asked him, “Jimmy, how is it that your dates are always so incredibly good looking? How do you meet such lovely women?”
Jimmy said, “There are good looking women everywhere you go. You just have to walk up to them and start talking.”
Ed said, “Yeah, but what do you say when they ask you what you do for a living? You don’t tell them you are an electrician, do you?”
Jimmy smiled and said, “I tell them that I’m a steeplejack.”
Ed said, “What the hell’s a steeplejack?”
“Hah! That’s their first question, too. I tell them that I go around the country replacinging the light bulbs in the clearance lights on top of the Radio and TV towers.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” said Ed.
“Nah, it’s the straight truth. Lemme ask you this, have you ever seen anyone on a tower during the day changing a light bulb in one of those clearance lights?”
“Well, neither have I and neither have the ladies, but somebody does it. Have you ever seen a tower with a light out?”
“No, I can’t say that I have.”
“Well somebody keeps those towers lit and I tell them that it is me, Jimmy The Steeplejack.”
Ed said, “And they buy that, all the women?”
“Yup. They think that it is a romantic job—and dangerous—which makes me even more attractive.”
“What if they see you around town again, especially if you are on a date with another woman?”
“I tell’em that I have a circuit around the country and I go when and where the company tells me. Trust me, they all light up when Jimmy’s back in town.”
Ed said that Jimmy was an inspiration to a generation of wiremen up and down the Mississippi River and a delight to a legion of women in the same area.
It is now 40+ years later and I am living in the San Francisco Bay Area and one of 8 electricians working on the Golden Gate Bridge. When people ask me what a bridge electrician does, I smile and tell them that, just like a Steeplejack, we replace the red lights on the top of the towers when they burn out—and I silently thank Ed and Jimmy for the great answer.
Here is a video that will give you an idea of what Jimmy The Steeplejack claimed to be doing: