07 October 2014

Memory, In This Light

Have you ever tried to describe something you owned or used in your past and, no matter how hard you try, nobody has any idea of what you're talking about?

It seems that the ones who might have owned or used it have no memory of it, and younger people can't imagine it or think you're making it up.  Or, if you're about my age, they think you're just "losing it".

That happened to me a while back.  On my way home from a ride, I stopped in a shop I'd never visited before.  I got to chatting with the owner, who showed me some parts and accessories he accumulated over the years.  They were commonplace when they came his way; now they're considered vintage.

Among those wares was a Japanese generator headlight from, probably, the 1960's.   It was shaped something like the "bullet" lamps that are becoming popular once again.  What was really interesting about it, though, was that it had two differently-sized bulbs and a switch at the top.  He explained that as you built up speed, you powered the smaller "low beam" and, when you got up to your "cruising speed", you flipped the switch to the larger "high beam" light.

That light triggered a memory from my childhood.  The old Royce-Union three-speed my grandfather bought for me about three years before I was tall enough to ride it (and, sadly, only a few months before he died) had a very similar generator headlamp.  Mine also had two lights, I explained, but the larger one was a fluorescent tube.  At slow speeds, you rode by the light of the smaller incandescent bulb, but as you got up to your "cruising altitude", if you will, you flicked the switch for the fluorescent light.

The shop's owner, who's older than I am, says he never saw such a thing and couldn't imagine it.  Still, I couldn't get it out of my mind.  So, I tried Googling all sorts of search terms, including "fluorescent bicycle light", "dual bicycle lights",  "bicycle generator light made in Japan",  "bicycle lights 1960's" and "bicycle lights 1970's", but came up empty.

I actually started to wonder whether I imagined it--or whether some shadowy operative implanted a fabricated memory into my mind to drive me crazy. (No, I'm not a conspiracy theorist; I just know that the world is against me! ;-)) Then a name started to float through my mind:  Kaddomax.  Could that have been the brand name?  I tried several permutations of the spelling, including "cadomax", "kadamax" and, finally, "Kadomax."  I hit paydirt with that last one:

Someone in Greece is selling a pristine set that includes the headlamp, generator and taillight--just as I remember them--in a box that seems only slightly shopworn.    The asking price:  $200, plus $35 for shipping from the Hellenic Republic.

I'd love to know how the seller got his/her hands on that set, and where it was kept for the past four decades.

Of course, were I to buy such a set--or even if I found one in less virginal condition--I would not use it on my daily commuter.  Today's LED lights are lighter in weight, and less complicated and finicky, than the older lights.  I know that LEDs can be made to work with generators, but if I wanted a generator for my daily rider, I'd go with a modern one, as it would be more efficient.

But if I had some restoration project, or simply wanted to put together something unique, I'd buy the Kadomax. Heck, it's tempting, just for the memories it would evoke and preserve.

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