Introducing Alan Riegler, a new friend of the Barndogglers

Painting of Telephone Line Construction
Painting of Telephone Line Construction

By Mike Burke

I never thought some little, blue glass insulator could stir up such passion and would introduce the Barndogglers to some truly amazing people.  I have learned quite a bit about the history of Hemingray insulators from a technical standpoint, from the founding of the company in 1848 to its sale in 1932 to Owens-Illinois Glass Co. Oddly enough, they also manufactured gold fish bowls. It’s all there on the Internet with just a little digging… or “doggling.”      The truly amazing discovery from the Hemingray research was not about a product, but about an artist named Alan Riegler. Ben our producer, partner and an all around great Barndoggler came across a painting of a lineman while producing our latest video on the history of glass insulators. Ben called Alan to ask for permission to use his painting in our video.

Alan Rigler donating one of his paintings to the N.I.A in 2006
Alan Rigler donating one of his paintings to the N.I.A in 2006

It turns out the artist was a former lineman himself, retired from Pacific Bell Co. Ben was amazed at the artist’s story and set up a phone call between the artist and me. I called at the scheduled time and was rewarded with one of the best two hour phone calls of my life.

 Alan Riegler passed along many technical details regarding the history of telegraph wire, the expansion of communication lines across the whole country, and the dangers of working on open wire with somewhat shaky equipment. Most of his work took place in the deserts of California. That is the technical end. But on a personal level I discovered Alan Riegler is the epitome of what makes America great.

Tocopa Hot Springs, Death Valley, Early 1970's
Tocopa Hot Springs, Death Valley, Early 1970’s

Allan told me the pride he took in being a lineman, the beauty of the remote sites where he and his crew would set telephone poles, and the connection he felt with the line-setters who went before him–feeling their presence while climbing eighty year old telegraph poles.

I truly believe there are thousands of men like Alan Riegler across this country, I just thank God I had the chance to talk to one. Alan is retired now, a collector of insulators, a self-taught artist, an aspiring musician, a cancer survivor, and a believer that America is still the greatest country in the world. Alan is a true Renaissance man.

Thank you, Alan, for allowing the Barndogglers to use your painting and telling us your story–all started by a little blue insulator. Mike from Barndogglers still on the line.

View the incredible paintings created by Alan in the below album. Contact Alan to inquire about available prints.