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What Does Tricky Dick Have to Do With Ceiling Fan History?

It’s been forty years according to Mayan calendar

The summer of 1973 was a an eventful time; the number one item in the news that year was the Watergate Hearings. Tricky Dick and company couldn’t pull off a simple document heist from the Democratic National Committee headquarters without getting caught. This was back in the good old days when you couldn’t just hack into someone’s computer data base; you had to pick a door lock, rummage through metal file cabinets with a flashlight, and steal information printed on paper. The following song played over and over and over during the Watergate Hearings that summer.

Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell & Dean

I found the song entertaining during that long hot summer as I began my first full time job working one-on-one for an eccentric antique dealer/entrepreneur named Burton A. Burton (AKA Burton).  When the Watergate Hearings weren’t airing he blasted opera. I worked from 7AM to 5 PM; I didn’t take breaks or stop for lunch.  I rode my ten speed bike to and from work and lost 15 lbs. the first month.

So on day one of this new job that began forty years ago today, I started work on the green Bourbon Street Fan, currently located in Fanimation’s lobby, it was one of nine and the first fans made by what would later become the Casablanca Fan Company. I cleaned the foundry sand off the castings drilled out the assembly holes, primed the parts, painted them green and applied gold highlights to the curly-cues. I sanded and stained the poplar blades with a golden oak. I polished the tiger stripe down the center shafts. That all took about a week and I spent the rest of the summer doing various tasks but mostly restoring antique slot machines like the one on display in the Antique Fan Collectors’ Museum located at Fanimation’s corporate headquarters.

bourbon street 3

I counted the days till school started up again as I couldn’t wait to quit. I enjoyed the actual work but between my inexperience and Burton’s demanding and  impatient ways it was not a pleasant time. The summer break ended and the day finally came and I was a “free man” back for my senior year of high school. Everything was fine until about a week into school when Burton called up wanting me to come back and work after school, promising me that things would be better. Sigh…I reluctantly went back and things were better. Over the next ten years I learned a lot from him and some other very interesting people. The rest is fan history…



  1. Linda Longo

    As someone who met the wildly eccentric (but entertaining if you didn’t have to work for him) Burton, I can only imagine the experience. So what was it about ceiling fans that got you hooked despite the long hours, etc.?

    Now I’m wondering if there will be a new wet location fan from Fanimation called, what else, “The Watergate.”

  2. Anita Sherman

    Happy anniversary Tom!

  3. Sandy Weiner

    hi Tom, i’m not sure if you remember me but I was Burtons photographer
    From 1975-1980. What an experience
    for me. Awesome working for Burton
    Never knew what was coming next
    Full of surprises

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