Lights On, Lights Off

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.

Re-lamping a GGB Tower Beacon © Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

Re-lamping a GGB Tower Beacon © Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

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.”

“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 just smiled. “I tell them that I’m a steeplejack.”

“What the hell’s a steeplejack?”

“Hah! That’s their first question, too. I tell them that I go around the country replacing the light bulbs in the clearance lights on top of the Radio and TV towers.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

“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.”

“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?”

© Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

© Allan G. Smorra,
All Rights Reserved

“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:

  20 comments for “Lights On, Lights Off

  1. April 12, 2019 at 1:29 PM

    Wow. I used to climb masts to repair, or replace microwave antenna, Nowhere near that height though. Kudos to anyone doing that. I get vertigo up a ladder nowadays!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. February 9, 2016 at 3:13 PM

    Too funny, Allan. I agree with Sue, that video is harrowing. There must be a better way! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pan
    February 9, 2016 at 6:29 AM

    I’m sure glad Nick didn’t over loosen that wing nut and drop it.. Somebody would have to go fetch it.. 😨
    Seems Jimmy was loaded with charisma and charm and a good back story 😄
    All of which go further than just good looks, with most of us women..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. January 4, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    In complete awe!


  5. January 3, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    I was giggling through your story, thanks for that one. Jimmy must have been a big hit. Of course I loved your footage, still don’t know how you do it, but love it anyway.


    • January 3, 2014 at 5:03 PM

      The trick is to keep my eyes closed. Just kidding…..

      Sent from my iPhone



  6. January 3, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    It’s like meeting a woman who says she models bras. Somebody has to do it!


    • January 3, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      Now THAT is funny! Thanks for the chuckle and for making such a lovely point.


    • January 4, 2014 at 1:16 AM

      Love this 😀 I would try that line but nobody would believe me, haha


      • January 4, 2014 at 2:46 AM

        It’s all in the delivery.

        Sent from my iPhone



  7. January 3, 2014 at 1:28 AM

    Great story! And that video freaked me out, I’m not great with heights….. 🙂


    • January 3, 2014 at 1:40 AM

      That’s ok, I have more trouble on the ground than up in the sky…..

      Sent from my iPhone



  8. January 2, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    What a great story – and fabulous footage!


    • January 2, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky…..

      Thanks, it is a great video and a fond memory.

      Sent from my iPhone



  9. January 2, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Wow, what a video. My man, there’s no way in hell you’d ever get me that high up like that. Whatever you guys earn, it’s not nearly enough.


    • January 2, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      Thanks, Bill. I wish that I worked for you.

      Sent from my iPhone



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