There are doubters who question its pedigree, competitors who wait patiently for the light to flicker and die. There's Bud Kennedy, for example, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Before Livermore's light was documented, the Texas bulb known as the Palace Theater Light was considered the world's oldest. It even received annual birthday wishes from radio host Paul Harvey.
Then Livermore and a "smart-aleck" reporter went and ruined things, Kennedy wrote in a 2001 column. So Fort Worth residents watched and waited -- ready, as one resident said, to yell "yee-hah!" when Livermore's light went dark.
"As far as I'm concerned, those bulb brains in Livermore can take their Centennial Light and go straight to . . . " Kennedy wrote. "Wait. They're already in California."
Kennedy visited the bulb last year, planning "to kick the wall and see if I could jiggle it out of its socket."
But being in its presence softened him. "The guys there consider the bulb a point of pride, as a symbol of firefighters everywhere," he said. "Who can argue with that?"
Of course this columnist came from Fort Worth. Those not from there may not know of its strangely competitive posturing, especially when it comes to the nearby city of Dallas (or electrical fixtures, apparently), but this is pretty representative. Ever since legendary Fort Worth businessman Amon Carter decided to minimize his contribution to the Dallas economy by bringing a bagged lunch with him whenever he traveled to Dallas, Fort Worth has been, well, a little touchy. Although Fort Worth may talk big, it can't help being friendly - Amon Carter still did business in Dallas, and our columnist could not bring himself to actually take a swipe at the Livermore light bulb.