The electric current crackles in the air like water on hot grease and casts its eerie purple glow over Frank Jones’ face. A maniacal laugh would be in order, but Frank instead smiles benignly.
“I really still just enjoy shooting sparks,” he says, looking like a little boy mistakenly dropped into an adult body.
Frank’s den in his northern Kootenai County home is crammed with X-ray equipment dating from 1850. Glass vacuum tubes shaped like eggplants, banana squashes, onions. Goggles, hand-held X-ray viewers, high-voltage coils.
The tools of a mad scientist? Possibly, but Frank’s madness is for collecting. He couldn’t resist the sparks in the high school physics lab as a kid, and he still can’t.
He studies every acquisition, knows how each works. His college degree in electrical engineering helps. He’s discovered equipment in college junk heaps, on trips to France and England, in antique stores.
He found his first tube - a 1916 gas-filled model - 30 years ago in a Catholic school in Helena. A hospital had donated it to the school. When 16-year-old Frank took it to the hospital to get some information on it, doctors tried to convince him it was dangerous.
“It’s not dangerous until you hook it up,” Frank scoffs. That maxim guides him. He fires up each new tube to satisfy himself that it works, then sets it in a glass case.
Frank has good reason to be cautious. He has books full of pictures of hands burned or covered with tumors from leaky turn-of-the-century X-ray equipment people misunderstood.
Even as late as the 1960s, X-rays were public entertainment. Frank has an Adrian Special Fluoroscopic Shoe Fitting Machine in his collection.
Shoe salesmen from the 1930s to the early 1960s had people slip their feet into the two slots near the bottom of the dishwasher-sized cabinet. X-rays exposed their feet inside their shoes and how their shoes fit.
Viewers on top of the cabinet allowed people to see their X-rayed feet. Frank sticks a dead, dried piranha in one slot to demonstrate and grins at the response from his visitors. “I just like to have them, play with them, restore them,” he says, turning off the foot machine. “It’s the same attraction I had to them as a little kid.”
Four girls from Rathdrum’s Lakeland High and Lakeland Junior High are going to the Olympics in Atlanta this summer because they’re on their toes.
Sabrina Waddell, Monica Cowan, Elizabeth Conroy and Kristi Kaufman tapped their way onto a dance team that will perform July 28 through Aug. 2 on the main stage at Olympic City.
These girls will work with people who stage performances for Disney and Opryland, but they need $4,400 to pay for the trip.
If you’d like to help, First Security Bank of Idaho is taking donations in its Olympic Dancers Fund, P.O. Box 157, Rathdrum, ID, 83858.
She claims it’s so
Rathdrum’s Penny Beseler says her job processing claims in Kootenai County’s assistance and veterans office is the best. Penny says co-workers help each other, laugh a lot and aren’t afraid to try new approaches. Did she say she’s in a government office?
Coeur d’Alene’s Al Scott and his son Brett displayed the luck o’ the Irish last Sunday when they each shot perfect rounds at the Coeur d’Skeet and Trap Club - a feat not often accomplished, says club manager Sherry Bainter.
What does your family do together that you treasure? Shoot those tales at Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814; fax to 765-7149; or call 765-7128.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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