Sunshine of the Night
Gear with Darren Bush –
We own five Coleman lanterns: a 5155 (propane), a 288 (white gas), a 5101, a 200a, and a 220F. There may be a sixth. I’m not sure. Some people would call me a collector. Those people would be in error. They certainly don’t know my friend, Paul, who has an entire basement room with shelves lined with lamps of all vintages and makes. Certainly there are over 150 lanterns, possibly more. If there is a zombie apocalypse, Paul will have plenty of light, which might attract zombies. But I seriously digress.
An anemic 220F. Darren Bush photo
Some of my lanterns are newer and without distinction, which means they start quickly and usually don’t flare up and make greasy black smoke. I’m not saying distinction is necessarily a good thing, I’m just saying some of them have personality.
The 5155 is a lamp without distinction. If it were a car, it would be a small, reliable sedan that starts even when it’s 20 below. I bought it at a going-out-of-business sale at an unnamed McSportingGoods store specifically because it is boring. My shack (the Thoreau Cabin in my backyard) has no electricity, so I need light, but didn’t want the smell of white gas. It uses the big green canisters that power ice shanties and tailgate parties all over the upper Midwest.
The 5101 is rapidly becoming a wall hanger. An experimental model, it uses a small propane cartridge about the size of a beer can that inserts into the side of a faux tank. I have five or so cartridges left. When the last one is done, it’s going to become a lovely little artifact. I am rationing the cans for sentimental reasons.
The 288 is a two-mantle retina burner that can light up an entire campsite plus part of your neighbor’s. I use it rarely, though it has a beautiful chrome band around its middle that has the aesthetics of an early ‘70s Cadillac Coupe de Ville; lovely, but a little dated. Still, it goes supernova and sometimes you need that light. Currently needs new mantles.
The 5155 (left) versus the 220F. Darren Bush photo
The 200a is old and needs a rebuild, but the internet sources say that the 200a can sometimes be a temperamental hand grenade. It’s cute, bulbous and cartoony, and while I can probably get it to work, it might randomly become red enameled shrapnel. So I don’t light it. No reason to.
The 1969 220F is a common-enough lantern to be non-collectable unless they are in the original box with the original documentation. Then the Japanese buy them for $250.00. The Japanese are strange about vintage gear, and will pay handsomely for an old Optimus stove/blowtorch.
Now … what to do about the 220F. It is temperamental, flaring up when you start it unless you futz with it, like a second violin who likes to be the last person playing the tuning A during warm-ups. It’ll burn like a dying star before producing a belch of smoke and becoming a black hole.
But once the 220F is fired up and settles down, it works okay. A little bit dimmer than its newer cousin, our 288, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It just isn’t quite right.
A few blocks from my shop is an old-school Coleman camper dealer with all the parts necessary to rebuild the 220F. It might cost me ten bucks to buy a new generator and get her all overhauled and rebuilt. Which would be fun for me because I like futzing around with old gear.
At the same time, it’s probably a waste of ten bucks because it’s still running fine, just a little rough. If it were a V8, it would be missing on one cylinder occasionally when down-shifting. You might get to it, you might not.
For years, maybe a century, the Coleman byline has been The Sunshine of the Night. The average user won’t see it since they stamp it on the bottom of the lanterns, and I bet 99.44% of the users never turn the lantern over other than to check the model number should they need a replacement part. But there it is, along with the old Coleman logo.
The little-known catchphrase on every Coleman lantern THE SUNSHINE of THE NIGHT. Darren Bush photo
At 55, my brain and body are not exactly running at peak efficiency, but I still put out a decent amount of light. I might have a small hole in one of my mantles, but otherwise I am quite sound. I am doing my best to do my small part in bringing some sunshine to the darkness that is the world today. We need more people to be lights, and if they sputter and smoke a little bit, that’s just the way it is. Better than being a 5155 and never lighting yourself.
The 220F is 48 years old and still wheezing light. In some ways I am sorry it is not a 1962 model like me, but then the metaphor would be too much, even for a guy who never met a phor he didn’t like.
Finally getting the 220F to burn brightly … for about 10 minutes. I suspect an air leak in the tank.
Darren Bush photo
I admit that I am a lot like this 220F. I am not temperamental and I don’t flare up, but I am sure I am not running at 100%, since no one is. But since I am in the continual process of rebuilding myself, it stands to reason I might want to stop in at Jerry’s Camping and grab a rebuild kit for the 220F. I think it would be good for both of us.