May 27 • 02:30 AM

The 'old lamplighter' kept streets bright

April 07, 2010
A few years following the raising of the Liberty Pole came The Old Lamp-Lighter. The story of "The Old Lamp-Lighter" is in Hildamae Bowman's books, "ALMONT THE WAY IT WAS," and "ALMONT THE TALE OF THEN AND NOW." Remember Perry Como? He used to sing the song, "The Old Lamplighter." That wasn't so long ago...was it?... The words to it are in Hildamae's books. Sing along with me.

The Old Lamplighter

"He made the night a little brighter,

Wherever he would go,

The Old Lamp-Lighter of long, long ago.

His snowy hair was so much whiter

Beneath the candle glow,

The Old Lamp-Lighter of long, long ago.

You'd hear the patter of his feet

As he came toddling down the street,

His smile would hide a lonely heart, you see, etc.

"Few of us who walk up and down the well lighted main streets of the villages and cities today, stop to think that it was not always so. Electricity and street lights that are turned on all over town at dusk are taken for granted by most of us.

"In Almont back in 1881, George G. Fisher knew those days when street lights were not so easily lighted, when kerosene and gasoline furnished the light and not electricity, when every light pole had to be climbed and each light ignited separately. Mr. Fisher was Almont's lamp-lighter, who lighted the kerosene street lights for 24 years.

"There were two and a half dozen lamps scattered about the village, and Mr. Fisher made his nightly round at dusk with his ladder, matches and other necessities to light the lamps. Again at 10 p.m., he retraced his steps to turn them off. On every third day, he made the rounds during the daytime to trim the wicks, clean the lamps and fill them with fuel.

"In those days, Mr. Fisher took care of the Congregational Church in Almont as well and at odd times, dug wells and graves. Even at age 76, he still dug graves with the help of his son, Clayton.

"Having two jobs at the same time, sometimes caused conflicts, and Mrs. Fisher was called on to help. It was the custom to ring the church bell to sound the alarm whenever there was a fire in town. One time, when there was a big fire, Mr. Fisher was out on his lamplighting round, so Mrs. Fisher had to hurry to the church and tug on the big rope to ring the bell.

"When the Fishers came to Almont in March 1778, they lived on a farm west of the village and moved into town a few years later. Almont people were poor then. The lumber industry was just passing, and new business hadn't taken its place. There were dirt streets, and well kept boardwalks. A small foundry gave most of the men occupation, and idle hours were spent in the many saloons that lined the street. There were some shoe shops, and Mr. Fisher was very proud of his fine pair of hand-made boots with wooden pegged soles and high heels. A man in those days wasn't considered dressed up unless he wore fine boots.

"An era passed with the death of Mr. Fisher, lamp-lighter, church janitor, well digger, fire bell ringer, and digger of graves."

Verne Messer, father of Almont's own Elizabeth Halsey, was also Almont's Lamplighter during his high school years as well as being the first night operator for Almont's telephone service.

— Country Cousin

Gertie Brooks is a lifelong Almont area resident. A 'farm girl,' Gertie is the premier historian for the Almont area, and frequently offers her memories and first-hand accounts in her 'Country Cousin' columns.
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