Filed under: Comfort at Camp, Family Camping, Preparation & Readiness, Uncategorized
OLD GAS PRESSURE LANTERNS – Restoring My Past
My Dad would remove the lantern from the tree limb, set it on the ground and vigorously move the pump in and out to pressurize the fuel tank. Like magic, the lantern would come alive again with a bright white light. This ritual was often repeated multiple times after darkness fell.
We would sit near our campfire and watch the moths and flying beetles swirl aimlessly around the light – sometimes hitting the globe and succumbing to the heat from the lantern.
These memories go back 54 years. I was 12 years old and we were camping near Watts Bar Lake in Tennessee. There was no RV – only a canvas tent and down filled military surplus sleeping bags from the Korean War rolled out on the ground.
I treasure those memories, as they were a significant part of my indoctrination into the fun, mystery, and excitement of camping in the great outdoors.
My Dad passed away in 2001. But, my Mom is still with us. We visited her in Tennessee this past October. While at my Mom’s house, I decided to brave a trip up the folding staircase into the attic. There I discovered several items long forgotten and frozen in time that dated back to my childhood.
One was a KampLite gas pressure lantern – the same one I remembered from our earliest camping experiences.
The globe was missing but it appeared to be in good shape – at least it looked good after the dust was wiped off. I anxiously brought the lantern down the staircase and later carefully packed it into our truck.
Back at our zip code address several weeks later, I entered the brand name and model number into Google in hopes of finding a replacement globe. To my dismay, I discovered that the company that made KampLite lanterns had long ago shuttered its doors and was no longer in business.
By luck, I stumbled across the Old Coleman Parts web site. I immediately sent an email to Mike asking if there was a possibility of finding a globe for the lantern. Much to my pleasure, he responded telling me he had one that would fit but it was not an original KampLite globe. I ordered the globe – which arrived a couple of days later.
Anxiously I tied a new mantel onto the lantern innards, gently dropped the globe into place and screwed on the top. After adding a few ounces of lantern fuel and pumping up the tank, I discovered no gas vapor was reaching the mantel. I was extremely disappointed because I wanted it to work!
I dismantled the lantern and found it full of black gum and crud – most likely left from gasoline used as fuel that had long ago evaporated. What followed were several hours of degunking with carburetor cleaner. With excellent instructions from Mike, I managed to revive the critical part called the generator and reassemble the lantern. To my elation, the mantel responded to my match and began to glow bright white. To me, this was cause for celebration. A now antique lantern from my boyhood camping experiences with my Dad had been restored to its original operating condition.
I learned from Mike that my lantern was considered a collectable item – of course, it is not for sale. I discovered another lantern hiding in my barn from the mid 80’s. This one is a Coleman lantern and still functions. We have two other Coleman lanterns we carry with us in the RV but they are newer models that use disposable propane cylinders. The newer ones are easier to use and do not require frequent pumping, but they most certainly do not have the ambiance of the classic gas pressure lanterns.
Perhaps readers will check to see if they have any old pressure lanterns worthy of restoration. Mike at Old Coleman Parts is the man to go to if you need parts or advise. I am extremely grateful for his help.
HAPPY CAMPING TRAILS TO ALL!