The marquee of the Carlisle Theatre is likely going to look a little darker over the next few months.
But when the lights come back on in time for the celebration of the theater’s 80th anniversary, they will be brighter than ever thanks to the efforts of volunteers who are undertaking a project to modernize the marquee.
“We’re really excited to see it look new again, and look bright and have all the lights working,” said Leslie Sterner, theater manager.
The story of how Bruce Webb found himself, and some of his family, standing on the marquee of the Carlisle Theatre Wednesday afternoon starts on a dreary day in December.
Webb was driving through town on a day that was made all the more dreary when he noticed the marquee on the Carlisle Theatre.
“At the time, maybe 15 or 20 percent of the bulbs were on and they were blinking. It was sort of sad to me,” he said.
Webb talked to his step-son, Jamie Flower, and the two agreed they could come up with a plan to modernize the marquee while retaining the 1930s art deco look.
Flower worked on replacing the marquee’s old mechanical system in which a wheel would spin contacts that would make the bulbs in the sign flash, with an all-digital system based on solid state relays.
“It will be more configurable for the theater in the future, and more reliable,” Flower said.
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The men roped Webb’s wife, Dawn Flower-Webb, and Flower’s girlfriend, Juel Shamitko, into helping them change out 318 incandescent light bulbs for modern LED, Edison-type bulbs that look like they have the filament. That makes them look like the originals, but they will last longer and use far less electricity.
“I’m figuring it’ll save about $1,000 a year in electrical costs,” Webb said.
The work this week is a test to find out which sockets in the lighted letters need to be replaced and to test out the new electronic system, he said.
“The outsides of them are stainless steel. They’re in great shape, but the guts of them are going to have to be replaced. Part of the mission today is to find out how bad a condition they’re in,” Webb said.
There are also plans to replace the broken neon lighting with more modern technology.
Doug Detwiler of DeRock Electric has offered assistance to the project, which Webb hopes to have finished in time for the theater’s 80th anniversary gala to be held in May.
As an architectural enthusiast with an affinity for the art deco style in which the theater was built, Webb is enthusiastic about the work.
“I’m excited from an architectural standpoint. It’s been a nice challenge for Jamie. He has an electrical engineering degree so he’s the right guy to do the mechanics on this,” he said.