Those Wild Wild Woodies Wooden Parkway Lampposts
Back in the good ole days,
from the 1920's through the 50's, NYC's highways were adorned
with special lampposts that the lowly secondary streets weren't
allowed to share. The truck laden expressways got the post-art
deco Whitestones, or their art deco predecessors, designed in
the early 30's for the Triboro bridge. The scenic parkways got
The Woodies looked like hangmen's noose holders and within the city and it's suburbs, it was the little Gumball fixtures that got hung, by the thousands. The posts on ramps leading on and off the parkways, generally had very short mast arms. The approaches to and from the Whitestone Bridge also had the short baby arms. The main roadways got normal length masts.
|Ironically, the Whitestone Bridge, which premiered it's own unique steel poles which then became standard on expressways, was surrounded on both sides of the East River by parkways with Woodies. Trucks could get on the bridge at both ends, just before its ascent over the river. They would have to exit right off it as soon as the bridge reached the opposite shore. On the Bronx end, the bridge ran into the Hutchinson River Pkwy, on the Queens end into the Cross Island Pkwy.|
|Around the early 60's, the tail end of the Cross Island, running from the Whitestone to the Grand Central Pkwy, was converted into the Whitestone Expressway. The Woodies went byebye and Worlds Fair era long span crook-arm poles took over, with their Disgusted and Cheerful merc fixtures.|
The Woodies began to disappear
on the Grand Central as it's massive widening commenced, about
the same time. The Cross Island lost them to the Bigloops by
the mid 60's, as did the Laurelton section of the Belt and the
Bronx River. The voracious Bigloops couldn't even keep off the
Cemetarial, unwidened and usually ignored Interboro Pkwy, running
between Central Queens and Brooklyn. That Parkway was just renamed
for Jackie Robinson.
The last little baby Woodies, with their Gumball-like teardrops, on the Grand Central, went to the happy roadway in the sky at the end of the 60's, after the massive, decade long reconstruction finally finished up. Not all Woodies, however, accepted execution quite so easily.
posts were fitted with mercury vapor Disgusteds (GE M400's),
after the first wave of Woodycides subsided. Some of the Belt's
remaining Woodies also got Disgustedized.
By this time, the original, surviving Gumball fixtures within NYC, had been replaced by Cuplights. By my time, some of the Belt Woodies still had Bell fixtures. By the time the Belt section went through in the mid 30's, Gumballs must've been passed over in favor of Bells, which by the time I was a kid were being gobbled up by the Cups, which in turn were under the gun of the mercs.
|The Belt's Woodies proved incredibly resiliant, outlasting those on all the city's other Parkways. By the 70's, even the Mercurized Hutchinson's posts were vaporized by the Bigloops, north of the Cross Bronx, and by massive long-masted crook-arm poles south of it, after that last stretch before the Whitestone was converted into an expressway. The little baby Woodies that graced the Queens end of the Whitestone, and still had their Gumballs well into the 60's, also fell, to wierd, side-winding-armed Bigloops.|
|The Belt's Woodies refused to go. As the 70's were drawing to a close, the Belt not only still had it's Woodies, but it's Woodies still had their incandescent Cuplights! Sure, plenty of Woodies had been knocked off in accidents, and every run of a few Woodies would be interrupted with the crookarms and Bigloops that invariably replaced the casualties, but it was clear who was still the master of the Belt.|
Even the Bigloops
had to wear Cuplights on the Belt, an indignity for these abrasive
poles, that they suffered nowhere else. Why the Belt remained
mostly incandescent, long after most of the city, and all the
highways, had gone mercury and sodium, is a mystery to me. Only a short stretch, between
the Van Wyck interchange and Pennsylvania Avenue, got Mercurized,
let alone sodiumized.
The end of the 70's brought the end of the Belt's cuplights, but still the Woodies pushed on. They threw off their faithful Cups for a new ally, sodium vapor bucket lights. These were little illuminated garbage pails that hung under the mast arms in the traditional Woody manner.
The remaining Bigloops
among the Woodsters were finally relieved of their cups and were
given normal HPS luminaires. The 80's proved brutal for the aging
Woodies, who perhaps had relaxed too much after adapting to the
sodes. They began to disappear rapidly, in an undeclared war
of attrition with both the traffic and the harsh weather blowing
in from the nearby Jamaica Bay. If the Bigloops were smirking
over the worsening plight of their splintering tormentors, they
were not paying attention to their own fate.
Both they, the Woodies
and the older crookarms were all being replaced by lighter, breakaway
poles. Eventually, the charade of allowing the Woodies to persist,
was stopped. The DOT swept in and cleaned house of everything
on the Belt, and put the breakaways over the whole stretch.
Still, the Woodies refused to surrender. To this day, they still survive on many on and off ramps, both with normal length and shorty mast arms, with their bucket sodiums. And the careful eye will still spy one Woody on the side of the main parkway, near the Bay Pkwy exit. At the Ocean Pkwy. North exit, there are still a couple of extremely rare Double-lamp poles on the service road.
The Woodies on suburban
Long Island lived a charmed life, compared to those within NYC.
By my time, the Islanders tended to mostly sport Cup and Gumball
lights. The Buckets, with mercury bulbs, made their first area
appearance on the Nassau County stretch of the Northern State,
which the Grand Central turns into, as it leaves the city limits.
The other Island parkways evolved through the 70's and 80's into a mishmash of incandescent and mercury cuplights, Gumballs and Buckets. In fact, it seemed that more Gumballs were Mercury than were the newer Cuplights. They too suffered, however, from attrition in the 80's. Parkways like the Wantagh and Ocean began to look like mouths with their teeth knocked out, as most knocked down poles were not replaced with anything.
Those that were
replaced, were done so by a ridiculous combination of wooden
pole, metal crookarm mast and Bucket light. Even so, this ragtag
army of Woodies survived several years into the 90's, until a
swelling invasion of snake-like, giant, one-piece loop-poles
swallowed up virtually every one. The snake invasion began on
the Northern State and eventually spread to the Meadowbrook,
Sagtikos and outer Southern State. The rest of the Southern State
blew off it's Woodies earlier, with tall Cyclop fixtures, hinged
directly to their poles.
Today there are probably a few stragglers left on the beach-side parkways like Ocean, or the far out Sunken Meadow. I last checked on them four years ago. There are still a handful of Woodies, with incandescent cups, in the parking lot of Clearview Park in Bayside, Queens, next to the modernized Cross Island Pkwy, that this park must have originally been associated with.
Originally written in 1997.