Sunday, November 30, 2008

This One's A Shocker...

I do hope this story does not shock you as much as it did me.

In 1964, my wife and I bought a small two bedroom house located at 1065 Harriot Street, in Beaumont.

That purchase was a key element in this story because it marked the day I became a “Fixer-Upper.” The house was small and old but very durable having been built in the 1930s by Mr. Gibson, who lived next door.

The only real problem with the house was that it had no air-conditioning. We really didn’t miss this because we were not accustomed to having such niceties anyway. That is, until the summer of 1964. This was a really hot one.

One afternoon during that summer I was browsing through the Beaumont Enterprise and noticed an advertisement that Sears was having a sale on 220 volt window air-conditioning units. I told my wife, “Lets go to Sears and get one of those window units. We can mount it in the kitchen window and the air also will flow into our bedroom.” So off to Sears we went with credit card in hand.

Some nice men delivered the unit and installed it in the kitchen window. The electrical outlet near that window already was wired with a 220 volt circuit.

That air-conditioner felt so good that we decided to purchase another one for the living room so that the front half of the house could be cooled. The kitchen unit did a great job of cooling the rear half.

So off to Sears we went once again and purchased another window air unit. The nice men delivered it and installed it in the living room window. That window outlet also had been wired for 220 volts. However, there was a problem. The plug on the air unit did not match up with the wall outlet. The men told me that all I needed to do was to purchase another outlet box that had the correct receptacle to match the plug on the unit. As the men departed they said, “Be sure to turn off the electricity when you work on that box.”

The first thing I did after purchasing the new socket was to turn off the electricity on the 220 volt circuit. Or so I thought. Since the rear window unit was running in the kitchen not far from the fuse box, all I had to do was unscrew fuses till the kitchen unit quit running. Once the kitchen unit quit I knew that I had killed the 220 volt power.

Now to the front room. I removed the socket plate from the wall then reached into the box and unscrewed the 220 volt wires that were attached to the plug receptacle. Following that successful operation, I prepared to install the new socket. I decided to straighten out the wires a little so that I could have more room to work with them.

As I reached in to straighten the wires, I realized that suddenly I was sitting on the floor. I had been in a squatting position. Also, my right hand that had been tugging at the wires somehow was behind me. Then my vision went from color to black and white. A sharp headache ensued right in the middle of my forehead. I thought, “This is weird.”

That was the day I learned that each 220 volt circuit has its very own fuse/breaker source. I had turned off the kitchen unit circuitry, but the living room 220 circuit still was alive and raring to go. And go it did..

One suggestion for long life is, “always hire a professional to repair electrical problems around the house.”.

Even if you are a “Fixer-Upper.”

Winston Hamby


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