Humanities & Cultural
Eiffel Plasterer was a teacher all his life. In the high school classroom, his instructional tools were stout books and stark blackboards. Out of the classroom, he conveyed wisdom through the delicate, ephemeral bubble.
Plasterer was a Huntington County native who discovered the power of bubbles while attending DePauw University in the 1920s. As a physics student, he became fascinated by the forces that created bubbles from air, water, and soap. He recognized that this humble synergy could enhance students’ understanding of physics, chemistry – even theology.
He taught physics at Huntington High School for four decades. His classroom and laboratory lessons on the properties of bubbles formed the basis for a performance he created and dubbed “The Bubbles Concerto.” He took the show on the road after leaving teaching in 1949, and spent the next half-century delighting audiences of all ages. Using soap formulas of his own concoction and wielding his hand-crafted wire forms, he created bubbles in exotic shapes, bubbles that could move up an incline, bubbles linked in chains, even bubbles large enough to hold people inside. Some of his bubbles could survive for weeks in specially controlled environments.
The show proved to be a local hit, then eventually attracted broader notice, and the 1970s and 1980s the genial, white-maned Plasterer -- now nicknamed “Professor Bubble” – found a national stage. He became a favorite on the pioneering reality TV show “Real People,” and his many other network performances were highlighted by one memorable “Late Night with David Letterman” during which he briefly enveloped his Hoosier-born host in a long, glistening bubble. In his later years, Plasterer was assisted in his show by his daughter, Alice Stickler, who was with him that evening on the “Late Show” stage.
Plasterer believed bubbles were not just curiosities, but could represent something much deeper. ”A bubble is how a child’s breath can make something beautiful from nothing,” he was fond of saying, “just like God made the universe.”
Between the 1,501 shows he performed, Plasterer would return to his family’s sorghum farm, working the fields and tinkering in the barn on new movements to add to his “Concerto.” He’d occasionally take time out to play sousaphone with the Erie Band.
Eiffel Plasterer died in 1989, and with him passed the unofficial title he earned over a career of providing simple fascination. He was, indeed, “Huntington’s National Treasure.”