Light up your life
Roy Lofing just turned 90 and he has more energy than you. He still puts in hours at Lofings Lighting, located at 2121 J Street, and plays the bones, a musical instrument, every chance he can get. They look like rib bones and sound like a fast hand clap. Lofing Lighting’s window has been worth a good long look, especially at night, for years.
I have never seen the bones before. Who made the ones you play?
I make them. My friend made the first set of ironwood, which is really loud. I don’t use them very often. These are maple and are thinner. I learned a different way to hold them so I can play faster and quieter. It’s been fun.
There was a guy in a banjo band years ago who wouldn’t teach me how to play. He wanted to be the only one. So I got some and went to the store I had in Napa at the time and turned on the radio and tried to get these things to clack. It took me weeks. Then I got it! Now I can play any type of thing. It’s how you move your hands. I’ve always loved music, but never had a chance to play it when I was a kid. I came from a poor family. I was one of nine kids. Now I am taking up the ukulele.
Have you always made things?
Yeah, my schoolteacher got me my first job as a sophomore in high school, part time after school, which eventually led to me being in the lighting business. I lost my job in ’61, and two months later opened up my own little repair shop.
Where was your first retail location?
Right next door [to the existing store]. My first one was called Roy’s Lamp and TV Repairs. In November, it will be 50 years.
I didn’t expect to see you making a chandelier when I got to the store. I just assumed somebody else made all of these and you sell them.
We do, but we do special lamps. If someone brings a vase to us, we can make a lamp. Years back, a woman had a bandy rooster that died [that] she had stuffed, and I made a lamp out of it. A guy was in the hospital for nine months, and he brought me the thunder bucket and the other one and I made lamps out of those. I have no idea why, but that’s what he wanted.
What is your key to happiness?
You’ve gotta have three to four belly laughs a day. You gotta have hugs damn near every day. You gotta do things you like, and definitely, definitely surround yourself with beautiful women. Make people laugh, that’s my goal.
How often do you jam a week?
Whenever anyone says come. I went down to that chili cook-off in the heat of the summer last year.
At Al the Wop’s in Locke?
I knew Al. I used to go down there. I’d sit and he would say, “You take up a chair, but you never drink. What is wrong with you?” That’s when they had slot machines down the hallway and when you went back there, you push a button and the wall would come up and you’d play the slot machines. Once Al said to me, “If you see that red light blinking, you step back fast, ’cause that wall’s comin’ down. There’s somebody in here I don’t trust.” And down it would come, boy, and fast, too! He had six to eight slot machines down that hall. He was a funny guy.
You grew up in East Sac?
No, I grew up in Oak Park, actually in what they called the Gould tract on 22nd Avenue and 34th Street. And then I moved up into Oak Park in ’35 and went to Stanford Junior High. I was on the north side of Fourth Avenue, was supposed to go to Sacramento High. The south side was supposed to go to McClatchy. My teacher told me, “You oughta go to that new school.” I was near the fairgrounds, and it was only a half-mile to Sac High, but it was four miles to McClatchy, and he said, “It’s a new school and it’s nice.” He kept asking me and finally I said, and I never spoke to my elders like this, “Why, you old codger, you are going to teach over there! That’s the only reason you would keep asking me!” I ended up going over to McClatchy!
You were the in first class to graduate from McClatchy. What year was that?
’40. I graduated at Memorial Auditorium on my birthday. You know that sign in front that says McClatchy High School? I helped make that.
How did you get to school every day?
Bicycle. There were no buses that take these kids around all the time for three blocks or half a mile. We got on our bikes or we walked. Rain, shine, snow, whatever.
Snow? Come on! Back in the ’30s it snowed here all winter?