When the lights came on

As a young boy in the 1920s, I saw the magic of electricity when I visited my grandparents near Rutherfordton. I never thought we would have electricity in the country, but the seemingly impossible began to turn to reality with the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration. About 1928, the Rutherford REA started surveying. They didn't follow the roads then, but took the straightest line which often went through woodland. Local people were hired for crews at a wage of 35 cents per hour — good money in Depression years. The 40-foot right-of-way was trimmed and cleaned, post holes were dug and poles were set. They used teams of mules to deliver the poles where there were no roads. They also used mules to pull the wire. Electricians came through the communities to wire houses. Our house was wired at a cost of $1.50 per outlet or drop — a total of $15. The lights came on Saturday, April 15, 1939. The cost didn't exceed the basic rate. Our only indulgence was the "Esso Report" with Eric Sevareid on a Philco radio my older brother purchased for my parents. We added electric appliances (washing machine, refrigerator and stove) as we could afford them, and life changed forever.

Don Hemphill, Union Mills, Rutherford EMC

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