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PHOTOS: Rare 1940s searchlight touches the sky in Penticton

Here’s the story behind what was lighting up the skies of Penticton last night

Were you one of the many people wondering what was up with the searchlight sweeping across the sky in Penticton last night?

No, it wasn’t Batman. It was the latest stunt by Skytouch Flooring’s owner Ben Eddison.

Since opening his flooring store in March 2020, Eddison has shown a penchant for putting on attention-grabbing displays. The two dragons that sit perched atop his store got many people talking last fall.

READ MORE: Pentictonites come together to rehabilitate neglected dragons

Now, the Penticton business owner has caught the eyes of even more people by renting a rare set of searchlights from the World War 2 era and shooting them to the skies from his store on Okanagan Avenue East.

But why spotlights? “Because, ‘why not?’” Eddison said.

“I’ve always been attracted to light and I’ve got a weird name for a flooring store with Skytouch so I just put two and two together as a way to get noticed and touch the sky at the same time,” Eddison said.

The lights themselves are quite a rare commodity. Eddison rented them from Galarie Productions owner Gordon Alarie.

Alarie has owned the spotlights — and ten more sets — for over forty years, usually putting them to use on movie sets in his hometown of Vancouver.

The lights were originally constructed from 1940 to 1942 and are some of only 145 remaining sets of their kind in North America.

“I’ve had these lights for more than forty years, don’t ask me why,” Alarie said.

Alarie has scoured the world to obtain his cherished spotlights and the parts necessary to run them. He’s purchased parts in places as far as Hawaii and New Zealand.

The lights were originally used to identify enemy planes during the war, Alarie said.

“I basically scoured the [world], just going to wherever they had searchlights or searchlight parts,” he added.

His searchlight obsession has become even harder to feed over the years because no one manufactures the parts anymore. Luckily, Alarie has a machine shop at his home in Vancouver where he’s able to make some of the parts required to run his searchlights.

“I’m burning carbons from 1940. They stopped making them,” he said. “When I’m out I’ll have to find another source or make my own.”

The searchlights, which run at 16 to 18 kilowatts, can be seen from twenty to forty miles away, depending on how much moisture is in the air. They’re most visible on highly humid days.

Alarie said it’s rare for him to get a request for his searchlight services outside of the Lower Mainland and even more unusual for that request to come from a flooring store.

He was excited for the chance to visit Penticton for the first time in many years, even if it meant hauling his searchlights along the Coquihalla. “Penticton is a nice place, when I was a little kid I used to stay at a motel a few blocks from the lake… it’s a beautiful town with beautiful people and it’s always nice to come back,” he said.

Alarie will be in town from May 20 to 23 with his lights shining bright to the sky each night.

As for Eddison, he’ll be at Skytouch all weekend admiring the show. “We’re open for business all long weekend… my wife said this is the last long weekend I can stay open, I’ll have to take a weekend off soon,” said Eddison.

You can catch the lights by looking up from pretty much anywhere in the city from 9 p.m. to midnight all weekend.

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Jesse Day

About the Author: Jesse Day

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