Friday, July 11, 2014

World’s Tallest Thermometer in Baker lights up again

LaRae Harguess, daughter of the original owners Barbara and Willis Herron, holds up a pair of souviners avaliable in the Thermometers adjacent gift shop, and original light, which have since been replaced with LED's, and hot sauce. After 3 years of being dark the World's Tallest Thermometer, at 138 feet, lit back up on Thursday July 10, 2014 after the original owners of the Baker, California, landmark repurchased the property through a foreclosure. (Will Lester/Staff Photographer)

By Grace Wong,
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

BAKER -- Cheers erupted when LaRae Harguess flipped the switch to officially re-light the World’s Tallest Thermometer in Baker.

Harguess, the daughter of the late Willis Herron, creator of the World’s Tallest Thermometer, said the celebration was “festive” and “fun.”

“It was so, so cool,” Harguess said. “I know I was beaming from ear-to-ear. My mom was here and she was really happy, too. I think it’s so neat that so many of the townspeople and tourists came to say ‘thank you’ for restoring this thermometer. One local even said ‘You have given hope back to our townspeople,’ and that’s what my dad would have wanted. That is what this is all about.”

The date was also significant: It was the 101st anniversary of the hottest day ever recorded officially, 134 degrees in nearby Death Valley.

Harguess said more than 100 people were there for the re-lighting of the thermometer at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

Herron erected the 134-foot red and white thermometer in 1991 but when he became ill, sold it. The thermometer changed hands several times, falling into disrepair before its glowing numbers finally went dark.

Barbara Herron, now 79, decided she would use her savings to reclaim the thermometer and in March of this year, the family got their giant landmark back.

“All of the family members, at different times, felt the presence of my dad here yesterday,” Harguess said. “He was just smiling down on us, and we were just overjoyed and of course, had a huge sense of relief.”

The thermometer’s gift shop also opened for the first time and among t-shirts and keychains, plaques with original lightbulbs from the thermometer are also available for sale.

“Our first sale was one of those lightbulbs to a lady from Paris,” Harguess said. “We have a limited amount and we didn’t want to throw them away and we just thought that it’s kind of a cool thing to sell. All the kids and the grandkids have one and I told them, ‘I’m giving you this so you can look and remember to always keep this in the family, no matter what.’ ”

The family is also planning a dedication ceremony Oct. 11 and grand opening of their store. The ceremony will include a plaque dedicated to Willis Herron and is open to the public.

“You don’t realize you appreciate something until you don’t have it any more,” Harguess said. “It was almost more special this time because we now know what it is to not have it. Last night, after everyone went home, we all just stood out there and seeing this thing at night, it’s just so beautiful.”