Before the arrival of electricity to remote and rural areas of America, life was very different for the farmer and rancher. His children studied by the dim light of a kerosene lamp in the kitchen, up close to the stove. His wife was a slave to the wood range and washboard. Outside chores done in the morning or evening were accomplished with the aid of the kerosene lantern. During the winter months, they all spent most of their time around that round table in the kitchen near the stove.
In the early 1920’s, a growing number of rural leaders and others were starting to insist on rural electrification. That resulted in the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) being created by Executive Order of the President on May 11, 1935.
Congress in 1936 established the REA and the President signed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 on May 20. At first, low interest REA loans were made available to commercial power companies for the purpose of bringing electricity to rural America. When they failed to take advantage of these loans, the agency turned to the promotion of locally owned electric cooperatives. On April 2, 1945, the Rosebud Electric Cooperative was incorporated.
It is impossible for people who have grown up with electric lights to imagine the deep emotion felt by families when their remote homes were first electrified. Do you remember when electricity first came to your home?
As a rule, the wife put electricity to work before their husbands did. The first appliance they bought was an electric iron. Most women of today are not aware of that six pound cast iron which was heated on a wood burning range. A close second to the iron in popularity was the radio.
At the time, a survey of electric cooperatives disclosed the following purchases of appliances by their members:
- Electric irons and radios – 84%
- Washing machines – 63%
- Vacuum cleaners – 48%
- Toasters – 35%
- Electric motors – 27%
- Refrigerators – 20%
- Electric water pumps – 16%
Electricity changed everything it touched in rural America and we are better for it!
Author: Clarence Shoemaker, originally published in the Gregory-Times Advocate on February 7, 2018