the years just before and during
World War II two unpaved roads led south from Saltillo.
For seven miles there was a distance of almost a mile between these
roads until they approached the Greenwood
community. There the roads converged. Those of us who lived on the
road that started from the east side of town used kerosene lamps and
wood-burning heaters and cook stoves. No farmer living on this road
had a milking machine. Those who lived on the road that ran from the
west side had the benefit of power supplied by an Rural Electric Administration
co-operative in Greenville.
A few of the farmers had milking machines. They could freeze ice cream
in a tray in their refrigerators.
In the evening while our classmates on the west road worked their
math problems at the kitchen table by light that came from a bulb
dangling from the ceiling, my brother and I read by the much dimmer
light from a kerosene lamp.
Once the United States entered World
War II, we knew there was no hope of getting electricity until
the Axis forces were defeated. Waiting for electrical power was one
of our sacrifices for the war effort.
After the war ended, both my brothers-in-law returned from military
service. One sister and her husband bought a farm on the east road.
They built a house and joined the rest of us without electricity.
My sister used an iron that burned kerosene and bought a kerosene
lamp with a special wick. The brand name was Aladdin.
Early in 1947 my brother-in-law decided to circulate a petition in
the community. The petition asked the Wood
County Co-Operative in Quitman
to install poles and power lines along the Hopkins
County roads where residents did not have power. I accompanied
my brother-in-law on the visits to the neighbors. Most agreed to sign
the petition, but a few did not. They seemed content to live as their
grandparents and parents before them.
Eventually, Wood County Electric Co-operative agreed to extend its
line from the western part of Franklin
County into Hopkins
County. The next problem was finding an electrician to wire our
house. A second brother-in-law and another World
War II veteran had gained some experience as electricians in the
military; they agreed to wire the house.
My sister took my mother shopping for light fixtures for each of the
five rooms in the house. For one bedroom she chose an opaque glass
fixture with a beige rim. It was attached to the metal bulb holder
with four small chains. Many is the time I had difficulty re-attaching
the bowl after I had taken it down in order to clean it. For the kitchen
my mother chose a milk glass fixture with blue daisies in a chain.
The day the workers came from Quitman
to connect the power to the house was one of the most exciting days
our family had ever experienced. As we celebrated, we waited for the
water to freeze in the trays we had placed in the new refrigerator.
My mother plugged in the new iron she bought with the pennies she
had saved for months. There was even more excitement after the sun
went down. My younger brother and I paraded through the house, switching
the lights on and off and then on again. When I resumed reading Sinclair
Lewis’ novel Main Street, I could hardly believe how much clearer
the printed pages were.
Years later when I told my sons and daughters about my family’s long
wait for electricity, they were dubious. But there are a few former
neighbors at Saltillo
who can verify my account.
© Robert G. Cowser
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